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shutterstock_199072898 copyA friend of ours came over a year or so ago and, without being asked, decided to go through our pantry and circle the Evil Ingredi­ents in any canned or pack­aged products. There are sev­er­al things that can make an ingredi­ent evil, chief among those being its unnaturalness.

The greatest of all Evil Ingredi­ents, she told us, was (gasp) can­ola oil.

Once she had schooled us on how destruct­ive we were being to our bod­ies by the inges­tion of all the Evil, she took her bowl of red wine out­side and had a cigar­ette. I took her warn­ings with a pinch of non-iod­ised sea salt.


Import­ant fact about me: when our friend told me how Evil can­ola oil was, it only made me determ­ined to love it and eat more of it.


With that estab­lished, when my sev­en-year-old son asked me yes­ter­day if can­ola oil was ‘okay’, I told him, in the way that ignor­ant, bullish oafs can when their hackles are raised and they have no inform­a­tion to go on, “Yes, son, it is. And the tree-hug­gers be damned.”


Anoth­er import­ant fact about me: there’s little I detest more than the con­stant pub­lic­a­tion of the flawed research being done about what we’re put­ting into our bod­ies. It seems that everything is equally bad and good for you depend­ing on what week it is and who’s pay­ing for the science.


But with a sev­en-year-old reli­ant on me for guid­ance and wis­dom, I sud­denly felt com­pelled to look deep­er and, per­haps for a change, provide some. I have now read many, many pages of online non­sense and watched at least four videos on the mak­ing of vari­ous oils. The only thing fried in our house at the moment is my brain.

There are two basic reas­ons the knit-your-own-yoghurt bri­gade (no offence) des­pise can­ola oil. First, most of it is genet­ic­ally mod­i­fied. I’m a dullard and have there­fore not yet decided that GM = BAD neces­sar­ily. For many, many Wel­ling­to­ni­ans, how­ever, this will, in itself, be enough.

(Inter­est­ing fact: can­ola is the glam­or­ous half-sis­ter of rape­seed. Rape­seed oil is bad for you too, and for obvi­ous reas­ons the folks in the rape­seed mar­ket­ing divi­sion felt their job would be impossible. Then a crop of clev­er Cana­dians came up with a way of get­ting the bad stuff out of rape­seed so that the oil could still be used. They called it Cana­dian oil, or can­ola for short.)

Second, the pro­cess of get­ting oil from can­ola seeds involves the use of nasty chem­ic­als. Okay, I admit it, this looks pretty bad. Bleach­ing and heat­ing and dous­ing the oil in chem­ic­al clean­ers so that it will look good enough to eat? Not cool, Canada.

The imme­di­ate fol­low-up ques­tion, though, is: are oth­er oils pro­cessed the same way?

Veget­able oil, it turns out, might be just as bad. For a start, veget­able oil is almost entirely seed and nut oil, includ­ing canola.

For what it’s worth, hav­ing done a little dig­ging, my take on it is this: if you’re happy to drink cof­fee and the occa­sion­al glass of wine, or eat a little chocol­ate from time to time or par­take in a pretty pastry, then you are prob­ably okay with the ‘everything in mod­er­a­tion’ philo­sophy. We know that these things are bad for us in large quant­it­ies, so we have them in little par­cels. Like­wise with oils. Drink­ing can­ola straight from the bottle is ill-advised, but a little in the fryp­an might be fine.

Tip: if you’re still wor­ried, stick with sun­flower and olive oils, and always cold-pressed varieties.




Note to design: We need to find a way to get Twit­ter IDs at the end of columns.

Steve Joll

Steve works as part of the breakfast show on wellington's The Breeze radio station. In past lives he's been a sports journalist for ONE News, a presenter on iconic children's show What Now and one heck of a forecourt attendant. He has three kids: a talkative son (Theo), aged six, and twin daughters (Margaux and Lila), aged three. He adores them and yet is counting down the days until they leave home. It seems a long way off.

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