Rapeseed Oil: What is it and what are the health benefits

Rapeseed oil is fast becoming a healthy oil of choice in the UK for cooking and making dressings with.

Bright yellow rapeseed crops are widely grown in UK fields. Rapeseed oil and linseed oil are the only oils grown and bottled in the UK, making a good choice for those wanting to buy locally produced foods.

Rapeseed oil is extracted from the seeds of the rapeseed plant – from the same brassica family as broccoli, cabbage, mustard, turnip and cauliflower – to produce a golden oil.

As with any oil, it is always best to use cold pressed oil to get the health benefits from rapeseed oil.

Health Benefits

Rapeseed oil is a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, which protects cells against free radicals and also plays an important role regulating the immune system function and other metabolic processes. It also contains a healthy balance of Omega 3, 6 and 9 – around 10x more Omega 3 than olive oil.

Rapeseed oil is a rich source of antioxidants. Due to the high content of unsaturated fatty acids, it has a beneficial effect on the brain function. It also known for relieving joint inflammation and regulating the digestive system. The high content of beta-carotene has a beneficial effect on eyesight and the immune system.

Rapeseed oil is naturally yellow in colour due to the presence of carotenoids. Carotenoids play important roles in the prevention of various types of cancers, heart disease and eye health. Cold pressed rapeseed oil mainly consists of a carotenoid group called luteins, important for healthy eye function. This is almost completely removed in refined oils.

Plant sterols are another health promoting micronutrient found in cold pressed rapeseed oil, shown to help lower cholesterol levels. Although the sterol levels in rapeseed oil are too low to make official health claims, it is an excellent source compared to other oils. Again, however many of these important micronutrients are lost in refined oils.

Uses

Rapeseed oil’s high smoke point makes it a healthy choice for cooking with. It contains the lowest amount of saturated fat of them all and its high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids can help to maintain a healthy cholesterol level.

Cold pressed rapeseed oil has a nutty flavour that works well in dressings, dips and marinades. It also has a light, non-greasy texture which makes it a versatile cooking oil.

Not to be confused with canola oil

Refined rapeseed oil is often referred to as canola oil in the US and Canada, however it is not the same as rapeseed oil. Canola is an oilseed crop created through plant crossbreeding, and although the canola plant looks identical to the rapeseed plant, it contains different nutrients, none of which are known to be beneficial to health. Most canola crops are genetically modified (GMO). Over 90% of the canola crops grown in the US are GMO.

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about sustainable lifestyle and green living for publications, and offers content services to planet-friendly businesses. Find out more at Rosamedea.com

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