Canola Oil: Is It Healthy?

Canola Oil: Is It Healthy?
By Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

 

What is Canola Oil?

Canola oil is the oil extracted from canola seeds, the genetic variant of the rapeseed plant. Canola oil has the lowest amount of saturated fat among cooking oils in the US and is high in unsaturated fats, especially the beneficial monounsaturated fats. Canola oil has high amounts of both omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.

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Canola oil has a smoke point of 396-414˚F, making it ideal for sautéing, grilling, and frying. Canola oil doesn’t alter the taste of a dish, which explains its popularity in baking dishes and vinaigrettes. Canola oil is also relatively easy to store: it is best to keep in a cool dark place, ideally a cabinet or pantry, and can last up to one year. A great tip is to smell the oil if you’re unsure of its expiration date. If the oil has an unpleasant or rancid smell, it has most likely spoiled, and may be best to buy a new one.

Is Canola Oil Healthy?

Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to play a very important role in protecting the heart, improving blood pressure, reducing inflammation and lowering cholesterol.

Diets high in canola oil, over other oils higher in saturated fat, were found to reduce total cholesterol levels by an average of 12.2%1. A similar study, comparing dietary canola oil with higher saturated fat-containing dairy products, found that substituting canola oil for dairy fat decreased participants’ total cholesterol levels.

Canola oil was also found to be effective in decreasing the growth of cancer cells and increasing the rate of the death of cancer cells1. Canola oil has been linked to aiding in the prevention of breast cancer. A population-based study found that women who regularly cooked with olive or canola oil had a significantly lower chance of developing breast cancer when compared to women who regularly cooked with hydrogenated, vegetable and corn oils2.

Despite its health benefits, canola oil has sparked some controversy as it is said to be one of the most genetically engineered foods sold in America. According to Spectrum Organics, a company that sells non-GMO canola oil, canola oil was originally made by hybridization. A process dating back to the 1920s, hybridization is the natural breeding of plants to yield the strongest and most bountiful crops. Like many modern day crops, however, canola oil is now one of the many that are genetically engineered. It is estimated that 93% of the canola oil currently sold in the US has been genetically engineered3.

While walking past one of our favorite places to eat in NYC, Hu Kitchen, we noticed they advertise that they don’t use canola oil. Whether genetically-modified canola oil or genetically engineered food is safe is still up for debate. For more information you can see our previous blog. It doesn’t mean you need to avoid canola oil altogether, rather, an easy solution to avoid genetically engineered canola oil, is buying an organic or non-GMO certified brand. In Laura’s kitchen you can find the following brands:

Do you use canola oil in your home? If not which oil/s do you use instead?
 

Interested in learning more about oils? Check out Laura’s blog What’s GMO and What’s Not GMO on the Bitsy’s Brainfood Blog. Keep an eye out for an upcoming post on the difference between cold-pressed oils and traditional oils. 

 

References:
1. Cho, Kyongshin, Lawrence Mabasa, Andrea W. Fowler, Dana M. Walsh, and Chung S. Park. “Canola Oil Inhibits Breast Cancer Cell Growth in Cultures and In Vivo and Acts Synergistically with Chemotherapeutic Drugs.” Lipids 45.9 (2010): 777-84.
2. Wang, Jun, Esther John, Pamela Horn-Ross, and Sue Ann Ingles. “Dietary Fat, Cooking Fat, and Breast Cancer Risk in a Multiethnic Population.” Nutrition and Cancer 60.4 (2008): 492-504.
3. Brumfiel, Geoffrey. “Genetically Modified Canola ‘Escapes’ Farm Fields.” NPR. NPR, 06 Aug. 2010. Web. 26 Oct. 2013.

Prostate Cancer: News and Recommendations

Prostate Cancer: News and Recommendations
By Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among males, following skin cancer. It is currently most common in men over 50 years of age. An estimated 1 in 5 men will be diagnosed with cancer. Prostate cancer involves the prostate, an organ associated with the male reproductive system. We spoke last week about breast cancer and wanted to continue to raise the awareness of our EALM readers by covering the ins and outs of prostate cancer; including nutritional and lifestyle recommendations to benefit the health of men.

photo courtesy of Cleveland Clinic
photo courtesy of Cleveland Clinic

Causes and Contributing Factors:

As of now, the medical community has no knowledge of a definitive cause of prostate cancer. However, the American Cancer Society has highlighted some documented risk factors:

  • Prostate cancer is more common in men over the age of 50. And about 6 in 10 cases of prostate cancer are found in men over the age of 65.
  • It has been suggested to run in families. In fact, having a brother or father with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer himself.
  • Some studies have suggested that inherited mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes (seen in families with higher risks of breast and ovarian cancers) may increase the risk in some men. Though these genes most likely account for a smaller percentage of prostate cancer cases.

Diet and Lifestyle:

It remains unclear how big of an effect diet has on the development of prostate cancer, although a large number of studies have found that diets higher in red meat intake, dairy products and diets high in total fat increase a man’s chance of getting prostate cancer. A study performed in Canada found that a diet high in saturated fat was associated with a “3-fold” risk of death following a prostate cancer diagnosis[i] when compared to a diet low in saturated fat[ii].

 Ripe Tomatoes

Conversely, diets consisting of fiber-rich foods, lycopene (found in tomatoes), and cruciferous vegetables have been shown to be associated with a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. It is important to note that lycopene is more easily digested after cooking, so look for recipes with cooked tomatoes like homemade marinara sauce, tomato soup, and ratatouli. Fish and intake of foods high in omega 3 fatty acids, have been linked to a decreased risk of death and recurrence of prostate cancer[i]. A recent article published in the Chicago Tribune states “men with early stage prostate cancer may live longer if they eat a diet rich in heart-healthy nuts, vegetable oils, seeds, and avocadoes”[iii]. It is because the heart-healthy fats found in nuts and vegetable oils increase antioxidants, which act to protect against cell damage and inflammation[iii].

Recommendations:

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the following to maintain a healthy diet for those affected by prostate cancer:

  • Eating a very high amount of fruits and vegetables per day, 5-9 servings is ideal and focus on foods darker in pigment, as those tend to be higher in antioxidants.
    • Specifically cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and kale, as they have been found to have cancer-fighting properties.
    • Increasing intake of omega 3, our recommendations can be found here. However, we feel it’s important to mention that a recent study found a possible link to an increased cancer risk and the digestion of omega 3s. However, the study did not question where the omega 3s came from. Therefore, it remains unclear whether it is omega 3s from food or the omega 3s from supplements increase prostate cancer risk in men. All in all, we recommend eating natural sources of omega 3s in moderation, like eating fish and a handful of nuts a few times per week[iv].
    • Similar to omega 3 supplementation, medical professionals advise patients to avoid using supplements, unless authorized by their doctors. In 2012 it was found that vitamin E supplementation could actually be linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer.
    • Although this has yet to be definitively proven in studies, many believe that drinking 2-3 cups of green tea could help fight off cancer cells. While there is little evidence to this, we don’t think it would hurt swapping your second cup of coffee with a nice cup of green tea.
    • Exercise has been shown to decrease the risk of prostate cancer reoccurrence. It is recommended that men get an average of 30 minutes of exercise about 5 days per week.

What activities do you do with your family to keep healthy and active? What are your favorite recipes with lycopene, cruciferous veggies, and omegas? We especially love this Tomato Soup recipe from Cooking Light!

 

For more resources and information on prostate cancer, we recommend the following websites:


[i] Epstein, Mara M., Julie L. Kasperzyk, Lorelei A. Mucci, Edward Giovannucci, Alkes Price, Alicja Wolk, Niclas Hakansson, Katja Fall, Swen-Olof Andersson, and Ove Andren. “Dietary Fatty Acid Intake and Prostate Cancer Survival in Örebro County, Sweden.” American Journal of Epidemiology. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 10 July 2012. Web.

[ii] Berkow, Susan E., Neal D. Barnard, Gordon A. Saxe, and Trulie Ankerberg-Nobis. “Diet and Survival After Prostate Cancer Diagnosis.” Nutrition Reviews 65.9 (2007): 391-403.

[iii] Cortez, Michelle F. “Healthy Fats May Prolong Lives of Those with Prostate Cancer.”Chicago Tribune: Health. Chicago Tribune Company, LLC, 3 Oct. 2013. Web. 13 Oct. 2013.

[iv] Brasky, T. M. et al. Plasma phospholipid fatty acids and prostate cancer risk in the SELECT trial. J. Natl Cancer Inst. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djt174.

The Latest Diet Recommendations for Breast Cancer

The Latest Diet Recommendations for Breast Cancer
By Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

 

Breast Cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women today. It is estimated that 1 in every 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, equaling a quarter of a million women being diagnosed each year. As many of you may know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  In effort to raise the awareness of our EALM readers, we wanted to highlight the importance of diet and lifestyle, on not only your overall health, but also in relation to breast cancer.

1-in-8 Breast Cancer infographic
Photo courtesy of www.nationalbreastcancer.org

The Role of Diet and Lifestyle:

In a recent article featuring Mary Flynn, registered dietitian and co-author of the book “The Pink Ribbon Diet,” she states, “because the majority of breast cancer cases don’t have a genetic link, you have to conclude that lifestyle factors, including diet, play a large role.” The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics takes a similar stance, stating that “while there is no certain way to prevent breast cancer, it has been found that leading a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk and boost your odds if you do get breast cancer.”

Risk Factors:

Highlighted below are the risk factors. However, we want to stress that if you find you fall under a few, or more than a few, of these categories it is important not to panic. If you are concerned, please talk with your doctor and follow the recommendations for when and how often to get mammograms. Here are risk factors provided by the Center for Disease Control:

  • Beginning your menstrual cycle before the age of 12
  • Starting menopause at a later than average age
  • Never giving birth
  • Not breastfeeding post-birth
  • Long-term use of hormone-replacement therapy
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Previous radiation therapy to the breast/chest area, especially at a young age
  • Being overweight, especially in women of the postmenopausal age

What About Insulin?

An article written by Franco Berrino, et al., states that elevated serum insulin levels are associated with an increased risk of recurrence in breast cancer patients1. The authors also found each of the following to be associated with breast cancer incidence: high plasma levels of glucose (>110 mg/100 mL), high levels of triglycerides (>150 mg/100 mL), low levels of HDL cholesterol (<50 mg/100 mL), large waist circumference (>88 cm), and hypertension (SBP > 130 mmHg or DBP >85 mmHg). The article also states that those with both metabolic syndrome and breast cancer have the worst prognosis.1 In addition, recent research has shown significant positive associations between obesity and higher death rates for a number of cancers, including breast cancer2.
 

In other research, omega 3 fats (alpha-linolenic acid, EPA, DHA) have been shown in animal studies to protect from cancer, while omega 6 fats (linoleic acid, arachidonic acid) have been found to be cancer-promoting fatty acids. Flax seed oil and DHA (most beneficial from an algae source) can both be used to increase the intake of omega-3 fatty acids. DHA originating from a marine source was found to be the most efficient source. To learn more about fatty acids in your daily diet check out our blog post on Fatty Acids.2

breast cancer awareness ribbon

The Center for Disease Control’s and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ tips on how to help reduce your risk of breast cancer:

  • Get a minimum of 4 hours of exercise per week – aim for a minimum of 30 minutes most days of the week for optimal health. Some experts recommend yoga to breast cancer patients, as the practice of yoga can ease anxiety, depression, and stress.
  • Limit alcoholic beverages to 1 per day, or none at all
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight (a mid range), especially following menopause
  • Eat plenty of:
    • Dark, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale
    • Fruits: berries, cherries, citrus
    • Whole-grains: oats, barley, bulgur, whole-grain pastas, breads, cereals, crackers
    • Legumes: dried beans and peas, lentils, and soybeans
    • Researchers and medical professionals suggest that cancer survivors eat a variety of antioxidant-rich foods each day (since cancer survivors can be at an increased risk of developing new cancers).

Diet and Yoga and Decreasing Stress:

Regardless of whether you are an individual with breast cancer, in remission from breast cancer, or woman trying to reduce your risk, the message is to maintain an active life while consuming a largely plant based diet with a focus on consuming omega 3 fatty acids like salmon, trout and sardines.  Find ways to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables such as joining a community agriculture share. Be sure to try the many different forms of yoga for a form of movement and as way to decrease stress. To help manage insulin levels, focus on eating carbohydrates, proteins and fats at each meal and two of the three at snacks. This will slow the absorption of the carbohydrates thereby preventing a high blood sugar and insulin surge. Start with small goals and build upon them each week.

What’s your favorite recipe high in antioxidants? What is your favorite way to decreases stress? Do you have a favorite app that helps you achieve optimal wellness?

 

Breast Cancer Resources:

 

 

References:

1. Berrino, F., A. Villarini, M. De Petris, M. Raimondi, and P. Pasanisi. Adjuvant Diet to Improve Hormonal and Metabolic Factors Affecting Breast Cancer Prognosis. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1089.1 (2006): 110-18.
2.  Donaldson M.S.. Nutrition and cancer: A review of the evidence for an anti-cancer diet. Nutr. J. 2004; 3:19–25.