Although cholesterol has a negative image, your body needs a certain level of this waxy substance to digest food and to produce vitamin D and hormones. Excess cholesterol, however, increases your risk of developing coronary heart disease. Canola oil contains healthy fats that can help lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease.
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Cholesterol doesn’t dissolve in your bloodstream very well, so it attaches itself to lipoproteins that float through your blood and into your cells. High-density lipoproteins, or HDL, are referred to as “good” cholesterol, while low-density lipoproteins, or LDL, are known as “bad” cholesterol. Total cholesterol refers to a combination of HDL, LDL, triglyceride fats and Lp(a), a genetic variant of LDL cholesterol.
When your LDL level is too high, the extra lipoprotein combines with triglyceride fats to build hard plaques on the inside walls of the arteries that supply your heart. As these plaques grow, they decrease blood flow to your heart and you develop coronary heart disease. HDL cholesterol helps prevent heart disease by carrying excess cholesterol to the liver so it can be excreted from your body. HDL may also pull cholesterol out of the plaques on your arterial walls, states the American Heart Association.
The therapeutic lifestyle changes, or TLC, diet recommends keeping total fat intake between 25 and 35 percent of your daily calories and replacing saturated fat with healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from products like canola oil. If you stick with this regimen, you can lower your LDL and total cholesterol, while leaving your HDL level the same, says the Cleveland Clinic.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows canola oil manufacturers to include a health claim suggesting that about 1.5 tbsp. a day of canola oil may reduce the risk of heart disease. To achieve this benefit, however, you need to use the canola oil instead of an equal amount of saturated fats, rather than just adding extra oil to your meals.
Canola oil is frequently mixed with other oils in products such as salad dressings, vegetable oil spreads and shortening. If those oils are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, they can negate the positive benefits of canola oil.
Even though it’s heart healthy, the recommended daily intake of 1.5 tbsp. of canola oil contains 186 calories. To get the most benefit from this limited amount of oil, add it to vinegar for a heart-healthy salad dressing or use it to lightly saute fresh vegetables.