- What is rapeseed oil?
- What are the health benefits of rapeseed oil?
- How can rapeseed oil be used?
- Stay on track this Veganuary?
Our relationship with oil is complicated.
On the one hand oil is liquid gold, a magical ingredient which transforms maris pipers into golden roasties, basil into vibrant pesto and steak into caramelised heaven.
On the other it’s a product of pure fat and one which will negatively impact the health of your arteries and heart if consumed in too high a quantity.
Since the mid 2000s, the burgeoning popularity of rapeseed oil as a healthy substitute for olive and vegetable varieties has appeared to resolve this battle between taste and health.
But with your new year health regime on the line, can the hype be trusted?
What is rapeseed oil?
The rapeseed plant is a member of the Brassica genus and is believed to have been widely cultivated by people for over 10,000 years.
Notable for its vivid yellow flowers, the crop grows successfully in the UK and has become a landmark feature in fields across the South of England.
It’s not just a pretty picture though; rapeseeds are rich in oil which can be extracted through cold-pressing and filtration or by introducing heat and pressing the seeds.
Initially marketed between 1956-1957, early rapeseed oil contained lots of chlorophyll and had a high concentration of erucic acid which gave it a green hue and unpleasant flavour.
Rapeseed strains were subsequently cultivated in the 1970s to reduce the product’s acidity, a process which has evolved into the use of solvents and chemicals to create the neutral cooking oil we douse everything in sight with today.
What are the health benefits of rapeseed oil?
Rapeseed oil is often celebrated for its nutritional value and is promoted as a healthier alternative to its vegetable, sunflower and olive compatriots.
This is largely due to its low percentage of saturated fat and its possession of omega fatty acids 3, 6 and 9.
Each of these have been indicated to provide different health benefits:
- Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid which the body cannot produce and has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate and improve blood vessel function.
- Omega 6 is another essential fatty acid which can support the health of bones, the reproductive system and skin growth.
- Omega 9 is a monounsaturated fat which has been shown to support wound healing and reduce inflammation in certain conditions.
In addition to its fatty acids, rapeseed oil also contains a large amount of phytosterols – naturally-occurring bioactive compounds found in plants which help to reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the body.
Rapeseed is equally a great source of vitamin E which is vital for the maintenance of healthy eyes and skin and helps to keep our immune system fighting fit.
But there’s a catch to this wonder substance.
Rapeseed oil is a highly processed product which often involves the use of a solvent known as hexane to extract the oil.
This process, alongside the application of heat, can reduce or remove the oil’s omegas and even introduce trans fats which raise the level of bad cholesterol in the body when consumed.
According to Harvard professor Dr Guy Crosby, it is therefore best to opt for cold-pressed rapeseed varieties instead.
How can rapeseed oil be used?
The absence of flavour in rapeseed oil makes it an ideal and healthier substitute for other oils in baking, salad dressings, sauces and marinades.
It is also much better for roasting and frying too due to its high smoke point, the temperature at which oils start to burn.
As with other oils though, rapeseed should be used sparingly. Just because it contains more health buzzwords does not mean you should be drinking the stuff.
Stay on track this Veganuary
Struggling to stick to your vegan diet plan?
Check out Hey Fresto!’s range of scrumptious plant-based meals, from smoky jambalaya to earthy mushroom ramen.
Want to find out more about the health implications of food and drink? Check out our article on if decaf coffee is good for your health. If you need some inspiration for meat-free morning meals, look no further than our top 10 vegan breakfast ideas!