Canadian Canola Industry
Overview of Canada's Canola Industry
Canola is the world’s only “Made in Canada” crop, and it is often the nation’s most valuable one, with annual exports of canola seed, oil and meal that are valued at over $3 billion.
The canola industry has 60,000 farmer decision-makers and a real value-added sector that processes canola seed into canola oil and meal. With 13 processing plants in five provinces and over 2,800 people directly employed in highly skilled and professional jobs, the canola industry contributes more than $13 billion annually to the Canadian economy.
Canola is an achievement of Canada's research community and is a testament to how responding to consumer demands for quality and nutrition pays big dividends over time.
With its low saturated fat level, excellent balance of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, its versatility and light taste, canola oil has found an important place in the world’s kitchens, food processing companies and restaurants.
Turning Rapeseed into Canola
The canola we know today was developed in the early 1970s using traditional plant breeding techniques; as a result of Canadian plant breeders’ efforts to remove the anti-nutritional components erucic acid and glucosinolates from rapeseed so that it would be absolutely safe for human and animal consumption. The plant also produced seeds with a very low level of saturated fat, 7% or below.
This new oilseed was christened “canola” and there is a strict internationally regulated definition of canola that differentiates it from rapeseed, based upon it having less than 2% erucic acid and less than 30 umoles glucosinolates. Therefore, oilseed products that do not meet this standard cannot use the trademarked term, canola. High erucic acid rapeseed acreage, although still present in Canada, is now confined to production under contract for specific industrial uses.
Today, Canada is the global centre for spring canola research. Many improvements in yield, plant disease resistance and quality continue to be made by private seed developers, the federal government and universities.
Where is Canola Grown
Canola is grown primarily in regions of western Canada, with some acreage being planted in Ontario and the Pacific northwest, north central and southeastern United States. In Canada, the 10-year average is 11.3 million acres harvested. Canada is the biggest single producer of canola. However, the EU member countries combined grow more canola, and China’s rapeseed acreage exceeds Canada’s canola production.
Each canola plant produces yellow flowers that, in turn, produce pods similar in shape to pea pods, but about one-fifth the size. Within the pods are tiny round seeds that are crushed to obtain canola oil. Each seed contains approximately 42% oil. The remainder of the seed is processed into canola meal, which is used as a high protein livestock feed.
The Importance of Fat in the Human Diet
Fat is an important part of the diet, providing the greatest output of energy per gram of any food and improving the flavour of food. When stored in the body, fat helps maintain body temperature by acting as an insulator. However, there is general agreement among health professionals that excess fat in the diet can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood. Research indicates that high levels of blood cholesterol can lead to heart disease.
Federal health agencies advise that diets derive no more than 30% of total calories from fat, with saturated fat comprising no more than 10% of recommended fat intake.
Canola Oil Versus Vegetable Oil
Some food products labelled "vegetable oil" may contain canola oil. "Vegetable oil" on a label allows a food manufacturer to substitute or combine oils without having to change the product label. A popular U.S. consumer magazine Cooking Light is now recommending canola oil instead of vegetable oil in its recipes.
Best Fatty Acid Ratio
Nutrition experts recognize canola oil as having the best fatty acid ratio. Research indicates the fatty acid composition of canola oil is most favourable in terms of health benefits and as a part of a nutritionally balanced diet.
When canola oil is compared to other oils in today's market, canola oil has the lowest level of saturated fat (7%), it is relatively high in monounsaturated fat (61%), and canola oil has a moderate level of polyunsaturated fat (22%).
To see our dietary fat chart which lists the fatty acid content of oils, click here.
Lowest in Saturated Fat
Today's dietary guidelines recommend a reduction of saturated fat. Research studies have shown a link between saturated fat and increased serum cholesterol that, in turn, is associated with increased coronary heart disease risk. Canola oil has the lowest level of saturated fat compared to other commonly consumed oils on the market today.
Canola oil is high (61%) in the monounsaturated fatty acid oleic acid. Oleic acid has been shown to reduce serum cholesterol levels and “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels. Oleic acid does not affect levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol.
Two classes of polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3, omega-6) are essential for humans, since they cannot be synthesized in the body and must be supplied through the diet. Canola oil contains a moderate level (22%) of omega-6 (polyunsaturated fatty acid linoleic acid) and an appreciable amount (11%) of omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid).
Omega-3 has been shown to be effective in lowering serum triglyceride levels as well as in reducing platelet aggregation and increasing blood clotting time. These anti-blood clotting effects play an important role in the reduction of coronary heart disease.