Rapeseed plant belongs to the cruciferous family – together with broccoli, kale and cabbage – and is native to Europe, whch makes it sustainable and easy to grow in the UK. Rapeseed oil is different to canola oil widely available in Northern America. Canola is a type of rapeseed cultivated to have extremely low erucic acid content and most of it is genetically modified.
Erucic acid has been the reason for rapeseed oil’s bumpy culinary ride because it can cause heart problems in animals. However, it has not been known to have any adverse effects on people. Either way, levels of erucic acid in rapeseed oil are very low nowadays and it’s of no concern.
Nutrients in rapeseed oil
In one tablespoon (14g)
119 kCal (498 kJ)
– Omega-3 fats
– Omega-6 fats
Rapeseed oil is unique in that it has the lowest amount of saturated fat of all cooking oils and a high amount of unsaturated fats. Its high omega-3 (essential) fat content makes it a great source of this nutrient, whilst its high content of monounsaturated omega-9 fat makes it fairly temperature stable and ideal for cooking, with smoke point around 230°. On top of its favourable fat composition, rapeseed oil also contains phytosterols, which help lower cholesterol levels in the blood. Altogether, these properties make rapeseed oil very heart-healthy. But again, no need for large doses – you get all the benefits from a teaspoon per portion.
Using rapeseed oil also increases your intake of vitamin E, necessary for healthy skin, eyes and a strong immune system.
When it comes to how rapeseed oil is produced, there are vast differences. There’s the cheap ‘vegetable’ oil sold in plastic bottles and then there’s cold-pressed, slightly more expensive, rapeseed oil. The cheap oil is produced using heat and solvents – to get more oil out of the seeds – whereas cold-pressed is a bit more pricey because crushing and pressing extracts smaller amounts of oil. As you probably guessed, cold-pressing preserves all the nutrients better.
On a practical note, rapeseed oil has another great quality – a very subtle flavour – which makes it very versatile and suitable for use in sweet and savoury foods.