Rapeseed is a plant grown to produce oil for cooking and industrial processes. In the United States, people call the edible variety canola oil. The fatty acids in the oil may benefit heart health, but it is a highly processed oil.

Rapeseed may be a healthier alternative to saturated fats such as butter. It has a fat profile containing omega-3 fatty acids.

This article explains what rapeseed is, its nutritional profile, health benefits, and potential downsides. The article also answers some common questions about rapeseed.

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Rapeseed (Brassica napus) is a bright yellow flowering plant that is part of the cabbage family. Growers produce it commercially to use as an oil and animal feed.

Due to concerns over rapeseed’s high erucic acid content, producers previously only sold the crop for nonfood use. Erucic acid can have toxic effects, particularly on the heart.

However, Canadian scientists produced an improved cultivar and registered it as canola in the 1970s. By definition, canola has less than 2% erucic acid and low glucosinolates, which are compounds in cruciferous vegetables.

Additionally, in 1977 Europe introduced low erucic acid rapeseed oil, containing less than 5% erucic acid and low glucosinolates. Generally, when referring to edible cooking oil, Europeans use the term rapeseed oil, and Americans use canola oil.

Rapeseed oil with higher erucic acid also has industrial uses in the automotive and chemical industries, but this type of oil is unsafe for human consumption.

Farmers in Canada produce around 20 million tons of canola annually, making the country the world leader in canola exports.

Rapeseed and canola cooking oils contain fatty acids, phytosterols, and vitamin E. The following table shows the nutrient profile for 1 tablespoon or 14 grams (g) of canola oil.

NutrientAmount per tablespoon
vitamin E2.45 milligrams (mg)
saturated fat1.03 g
monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs)8.86 g
polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)3.93 g

Rapeseed and canola oil may have several health advantages due to their beneficial compounds.

It may help reduce the risk of heart disease

Rapeseed and canola oil have a beneficial fat profile. They are low in saturated fat and higher in MUFAs and PUFAs.

The American Heart Association (AHA) lists canola oil as a cooking oil that is better for health. This is because saturated fat can raise cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease. MUFAs and PUFAs are better for health if people use them in moderation.

A 2021 study found that replacing saturated fats in the diet with unsaturated fats may decrease a person’s risk of developing atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. This is particularly true in the case of PUFAs. However, the study authors concluded that further research into this topic is necessary.

A 2019 study found that adults with central adiposity and metabolic syndrome criteria had lower cholesterol after consuming canola oil as part of a weight-maintenance program. Central adiposity refers to the accumulation of fat in a person’s abdomen.

Rapeseed oil can help maintain a healthy weight

As an oil low in saturated fat, rapeseed may help someone maintain a healthy weight. A 2019 review found that consuming canola oil in a modest amount may help decrease body weight. However, the authors also noted that further research is necessary.

The authors suggested that the high amount of MUFAs and PUFAs are oxidized rather than stored, which may help to reduce body weight. They noted that research suggests a Mediterranean diet and olive oil high in MUFAs do not cause weight gain or obesity.

However, it is important to note it is still possible to gain weight from any oil or food if a person consumes more calories than they burn.

It contains omega-3 fatty acids that support health

Canola oil contains 1.28 g of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) per tablespoon. ALA is an omega-3 fatty acid that the body converts to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids may benefit the following:

While rapeseed oil may have some health benefits, a person may wish to consider its potential disadvantages.

Environmental impact

As with any widely produced crop, producing rapeseed oil may have a negative environmental impact. This is mostly due to the agricultural industry using chemical fertilizers, which can contribute to the greenhouse gas effect. The production of canola oil can also increase carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

A person may be able to find rapeseed oil that has been grown without chemical fertilizers.

According to the same study, it is also important to note that rapeseed oil has the least greenhouse gas emissions per liter compared to sunflower oil and palm oil.

To discover more evidence-based information and resources for the environment and health, visit our dedicated hub.

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Highly processed

In some cases, producers use solvents such as hexane to extract vegetable oil from seeds, and the production methods may cause small amounts of trans fats to remain in the oil.

Additionally, research suggests that natural antioxidants such as beta carotene and vitamin E protect oils such as rapeseed from oxidation. However, processing oils can reduce the number of antioxidants and compromise their stability when heating them in cooking.

One study suggests that rapeseed oil is suitable for pan frying but is best cooked for a short period and in a thin layer.

Below are some of the most common questions and answers about rapeseed oil.

What is rapeseed oil used for?

People use rapeseed oil in industrial processes and for cooking. In the U.S., edible rapeseed oil is called canola oil.

Is rapeseed oil the same as canola oil?

Rapeseed oil and canola oil come from the same type of plant, and manufacturers modify them to contain lower amounts of erucic acid and other compounds.

In the U.S., people use canola oil for cooking and usually refer to rapeseed oil when describing the product used in industrial processes. In Europe, people refer to rapeseed oil when describing cooking oil.

Can a person cook with rapeseed oil?

People can cook with rapeseed oil that retailers sell as cooking oil. In the U.S., this is usually called canola oil. People can use rapeseed oil for frying and roasting. Additionally, they can use cold-pressed rapeseed oil for dressing salads and vegetables.

Rapeseed is a plant that manufacturers use to make edible oil and oil for industrial processes. It is low in saturated fat and higher in MUFAs and PUFAs. Additionally, rapeseed contains omega-3 fatty acids.

People may use rapeseed or canola oil to help prevent chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, and manage their weight. However, people should be mindful of how much fat they eat to reduce their risk of chronic diseases.