Cooking Oils

This is where you can find out all the specific information you want about our Cooking Oils. Please read our Process Culinary Oils Processing Guide section too. Or contact us if you're unable to find the answer to your question.

What is the "truth" about canola oil?
Where does Spectrum Naturals Grapeseed Oil come from?
When should I use Spectrum Naturals Grapeseed Oil?
Are all grapeseed oils alike?
Isn't Grapeseed Oil polyunsaturated and therefore not suitable for cooking?
How do Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Grapeseed Oil compare?

What is the "truth" about canola oil?

Canola oil, one of the fastest-growing oils in the North American marketplace, is known to be nutritionally sound. Recently, however, outrageously inaccurate articles, letters and emails have appeared portraying canola oil as toxic and the cause of a host of diseases including glaucoma, emphysema, anemia, and even Mad Cow. While the misinformation does seem way beyond belief, this 'canola scare' has raised concerns among some consumers. So what is the truth about canola oil?

The Truth About Canola
In reality, canola oil has been extensively researched and is known within the established scientific community as a nutritious oil. No sound scientific study has ever proven a connection between canola and any disease. Early studies did seem to suggest a possible link between canola oil and toxicity in rats. But further research confirmed that rats, which subsist primarily on grains and vegetables, do not metabolize any oil well, and therefore do not make good lipid research subjects. Unfortunately the flawed studies continue to be cited in error.

And while canola oil has been singled out as having toxic properties, in truth any edible oil can be made nutritionally bankrupt, and even transformed into poison, depending on the techniques used for processing. For instance, flaxseed oil, typically used as a nutritional supplement for its high Omega-3 Fatty Acid content, can be converted via certain processing methods into linseed oil, used in paint applications.

Among the misinformation currently circulating is the notion that due to toxicity, insects won't eat canola plants. Actually, canola is susceptible to numerous pests that thrive in temperate climate zones, so it is grown only in regions that experience extended periods of freezing.

Spectrum's canola seed is grown exclusively in Canada and the northern USA. As with any other oil, the available nutritional benefit in a bottle of canola oil depends on several factors including seed selection, processing and proper usage. Read on to find out why Spectrum considers canola oil to be one of the best oils—and best values—around.

What is Canola?
Canola, also known as Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed, was developed in the 1970s from mustard rape, a member of the mustard family. Oil seed from mustard rape, usually called rapeseed, has been in use for more than three thousand years. The Canadian government coined the term 'canola' (for 'Canada Oil') due to the negative association of the word 'rapeseed.'

Canola today has very different fatty acid composition and flavor than rapeseed. It has been hybridized from rapeseed to yield a good all purpose cooking oil with a high monounsaturated fat content similar to olive oil, a low saturated fat content, a very low level of erucic acid for neutral flavor, and good shelf stability to discourage rancidity.

Not All Canola is Created Equal
Since the canola scare is an urban legend and the scientific community endorses canola oil, will any bottle do? The answer is no. Two canola oils sitting side by side on the shelf may have arrived there in very different ways. Here we will illustrate by examining different approaches to three steps in the production of canola oil: seed selection, extraction and processing.

SEED SELECTION: Genetically Engineered vs. Naturally Hybridized
A prevalent canola myth involves the supposed role of genetic engineering in its development. Extensively used beginning in the 1990s, genetic engineering involves actual gene manipulation—inserting genes from a different plant (or even species) into host cell nuclei.

Canola predates genetic engineering by two decades and was originally developed through a very different process, hybridization. Practiced for centuries and perfected by Luther Burbank in the 1920s, hybridization is a natural, iterative process where plants are selected for certain desired characteristics, then bred to produce a new crop that displays those attributes in greater abundance.

Unfortunately, today genetic engineering is becoming widely practiced on some plants and canola has quickly become one of the most genetically altered crops. Experts estimate that fifty-five percent of the 2000 North American canola crop was genetically engineered. This means that consumers who want to avoid genetically engineered (GE) products need to take special care in choosing canola oil.

Spectrum uses no GE canola whatsoever. Prior to use, we test all Spectrum canola seed and oil at a third party lab, which verifies non-GE status through sensitive DNA analysis. Because organic certification agencies prohibit GEs, Spectrum Naturals Organic Canola Oil is by definition non-GE, but we test its seed and oil to eliminate the small (but growing) possibility of wind drift contamination from GE fields.

EXTRACTION: Hexane Extracted vs. Expeller Pressed
Mass market oils are typically extracted from seed using a petroleum product called hexane. Conventional manufacturers like hexane because it is highly efficient, pulling almost 100% of the oil from seed. Because hexane evaporates during processing, the FDA does not require it to be declared on the label. But some consumers are concerned about potential chemical residues, and hexane is notoriously harmful to the environment. Natural oils, including Spectrum Naturals, are crushed from seed using the hydraulic action of an expeller press. Expeller pressing yields less oil than chemical extraction, usually about 50-70% of the oil, so expeller pressed oils are usually more expensive than conventionally processed oils. They are also much kinder to the environment.

PROCESSING: Use vs. Nonuse of Chemical Preservatives
Most cooking oils are processed to produce a more neutral taste profile and to remove naturally occurring substances that if allowed to remain would cause the oil to foam, pop or smoke when subjected to heat. Unfortunately, mass produced oils are further processed to extend shelf life by adding carcinogenic antioxidants such as BHT, BHA and TBHQ. In constrast, chemical preservatives are never added to Spectrum Naturals oils.

When to Choose Canola Oil
Every oil has a smoke point, the temperature at which it begins to smoke. Oil should never be allowed to smoke as it compromises nutritional value and releases carcinogenic free radicals. High monounsaturate oils such as canola are a good all-purpose choice because they can generally take higher heat than polyunsaturated oils like safflower, sunflower and soybean.

Extra virgin olive oil and canola oil make great partners in the kitchen. Because the rich flavor in extra virgin olive oil dissipates when sustained heat is applied, save this more expensive oil for salad dressings, light sautés and for use as a condiment. Canola oil has a similar fatty acid profile to olive oil and is a great value. Choose Spectrum Naturals Canola Oil or Organic Canola Oil when you need a neutral flavored cooking oil for use up to medium high heat (375°F). For higher heat up to 450°F, select Spectrum Naturals High Heat Canola for its extra high monounsaturate content and super high heat tolerance.


Where does Spectrum Naturals Grapeseed Oil come from?

Spectrum Naturals Grapeseed oil comes from Italy, where it is expeller pressed oil from Italy where it is extracted with a heated expeller press. No solvents are used in extraction.


When should I use Spectrum Naturals Grapeseed Oil?

Grapeseed oil has a reputation as the 'chefs' choice' because of its light, clean flavor profile. Popularly used in French cooking and other special applications, it cooks foods without making them seem greasy, and its neutral flavor allows the taste of other ingredients to come
through. Spectrum Naturals Grapeseed Oil produces superior results in a wide range of culinary applications including sautéing, medium high heat frying, baking and oil infusing.


Are all grapeseed oils alike?

No, processing can differ substantially. Grape seeds have a very low oil content, so expeller extraction is not viable. Most grapeseed oil is hexane extracted because hexane efficiently pulls oil from seed. Due to concern about potential residue from contact between hexane and oil, Spectrum Naturals Grapeseed Oil is extracted a heated expeller press. No solvents are used in extraction. Spectrum's Grapeseed Oil is also refined at lower temperatures for a longer period of time to protect it from the effects of high heat exposure.


Isn't Grapeseed Oil polyunsaturated and therefore not suitable for cooking?

Polyunsaturates generally are fragile oils not suitable for exposure to high or prolonged heat. With ten grams of polyunsaturates per serving, Spectrum Naturals Grapeseed Oil is highly polyunsaturated. But the oil has unique properties. Low in gums and other impurities that occur naturally in oil, grapeseed oil is less volatile at higher heat levels than other polyunsaturates. Spectrum Naturals Grapeseed Oil's smoke point of 428°F allows safe use in a wider range of culinary applications than typical polyunsaturated oils.


How do Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Grapeseed Oil compare?

A monounsaturated oil, extra virgin olive oil is a linchpin of the heart healthy Mediterranean Diet. The oil is rich and flavorful. As an unrefined oil, extra virgin olive oil should not be exposed to heat higher than 325°F. In addition, most of its characteristic flavor dissipates under sustained heat, so extra virgin olive oil is more suitable for use as a condiment than in most cooking applications. A refined oil, Grapeseed Oil's reputation is built on its superior cooking performance. It can be brought to higher heat and has a lighter, more neutral taste profile than extra virgin olive oil.