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By: Leslie-Ann Kroeker

Oil oil everywhere, but which one should you eat?


Many cooking oils line the shelves of grocery stores, are used in restaurants and are found in mass produced food today. With so many choices it’s difficult to tell which one is actually the best for your health, especially when the oils of the past have a history of being unhealthy.


 In 2006, the U.S Food and Drug Administration took a stand against trans fat by demanding food manufacturers label all trans fat found in their products. Trans fats are found in partially hydrogenated oils and in products like crackers, chips, cookies and shortenings. There is a  correlation between trans fat in a diet and the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.


After the labels were put onto packaging, the general public became more aware of just how dangerous these oils could be in their diets.


Cooking oil today is definitely different from the oils of the past. More people are becoming health conscious. As the need for healthy products rise, companies, too, are adapting to the demand.


A new product on the industrial market within the last few years has been Dow AgroScience Omega-9 canola oil derived from Nextera canola.  This canola is specifically bred in order to manufacture these oils and is being used in restaurants and food packaging across North America.


Marketed as the next generation of healthy oils, Omega-9 canola oil producers claimit creates healthier food without compromising the taste. This canola is certified by the American Heart Association because it is high in mono unsaturated fats, which increases good cholesterol and decreases the bad.


Dr. Susan Whiting, professor of nutrition and dietetics at the University of Saskatchewan admits she too indulges in the occasional sweet potato fry every once in a while.  She says making the change to Omega-9 oil will still please the taste buds and can keep the waistline in check at the same time.


“The thing about fast food restaurants is that they focus on fried food. Fried food is easy to make and people like to go out for it because they can’t make it at home… these oils are a step to make the food a little healthier,” said Whiting.


Nextera was put into worldwide production in 1998, but was sold almost exclusively to Japan. The Japanese used it in cooking because it doesn’t smoke at all.  In the early days, the clinical support for the healthy attributes for mono-saturated fats didn’t exist. People liked it because it can be used for a long period of time without burning and cooked at a higher temperature perfect for frying.


In 2005, Dow AgroScience started to promote this canola in North America. This coincided with the legislation and consumer momentum to get trans fats out of the diet.


Today, it accounts for about 10 per cent of all canola grown in North America and is the most profitable. For growers, it means they are able to get the largest possible margin for the canola they produce on their farms.


Big restaurant chains like Earls, Boston Pizza and Moxie’s have adopted this oil—partly because there was a push to get trans fats out of their cooking process but also because it’s functional- canola oil is naturally light in flavor and won’t change the taste of the food itself.


Food manufacturers and packaging companies have also jumped into using Omega-9 oil. Packaged foods of the past were often dredged with preservatives in order to stay on the shelves longer. Now, with Omega-9 oils added to the food, they are able to remain fresh for longer, without adding foreign chemicals.


“The products don’t go rancid on the shelf like other oils. The other real positive attribute is they don’t have to use a lot of preservatives. The oil is naturally stable,” said Tyler Groeneveld, Omega- 9 marketing manager at Dow AgroSciences.


“Consumers don’t know what it is when they read chemical names on a box of (food). When food companies can use naturally stable oils, they don’t have to use confusing ingredients,” said Groeneveld.


If these current health trends continue, it looks as if restaurants might be moving in the direction of food analysis. This means calories and types of oil will become more readily available to the public by being published on menus and websites.


“Restaurants that take a step to provide healthier options now are more likely to attract customers (later),” said Groeneveld.


If that’s the case, the popularity of Omega-9 canola isn’t going to stop any time soon.


“Health and wellness agenda is what is really driving the adoption of healthy oils in the North American diet,” said Groeneveld. “We think healthy oils and Nexera canola will (eventually) become 25 per cent of North American canola.”