FOOD FOR THOUGHT
HEALTH Originating as a lubricant, rapeseed oil has evolved into an edible one
NO TO CHOLESTROL: Canola reduces blood cholesterol levels
Rapeseed is one of the oldest of cultivated crops and is the source of canola oil. Now popular as cooking oil, its first use, thousands of years ago, was in lamps.
Rapeseed oil was an invaluable lubricant during the industrial revolution because it would cling to water and steam-washed metal surfaces better than any other oil.
The steam engines in naval and merchant ships used rapeseed oil as a lubricant. Rapeseed cultivation took off in Canada, currently the world's leading producer, in the 1940s when WW II cut off European and Asian supplies.
Canola's popularity as a cooking oil is next only to soybean oil and palm oil.
But canola is not any ordinary rapeseed: canola is the trademarked name of a Canadian-bred rapeseed cultivar that has very low levels of erucic acid.
Traditional rapeseed oil is unsuitable for human consumption because it contains lots of erucic acid, a toxic fatty acid.
Canola oil, however, is safe and contains less than 2 per cent erucic acid.
Apart from being a cooking medium, canola is a common ingredient in salad dressings, sandwich spreads, margarine, mayonnaise, coffee whiteners, biscuits, cake mixes, bread and fried snacks.
Young rape leaves are a potherb, source of rape oil and a nutritious cattle feed.
Rapeseed oil finds use in soap manufacture; it is a lubricant, emulsifying agent and a source of vegetable wax.
Nutrition: 100 gm of canola oil contains around 884 Calorie.
That's a lot of calories, but the good news is that it also contains the lowest level of saturated fatty acids of any vegetable oil.
It is high in monounsaturated fatty acids that reduce blood cholesterol levels and is a good source of essential fatty acids that the body must obtain in the diet.
It is cholesterol-free and is a rich source of Vitamin E.
Rape leaves, root and inflorescence are low in calories (less than 75 Calorie per 100 gm) and they are good sources of B Vitamins, beta-carotene, Vitamin C, calcium and dietary fibre.
Powdered and salted rape seeds are a folk remedy for cancer.
The oil, along with camphor, is a balm for arthritic joints. Root decoction is a folk cure for chronic cough.
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