Take the Best from the West – Make the switch to Canola Oil

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  • Did you know that Indians consume more than double the amount of cooking oil than they produce and that this shortfall of 9.5 million tonnes has to be imported? 
  • Did you know that more Indians are dying from chronic lifestyle diseases than from infectious diseases?
  • Did you know that all lifestyle diseases are food related?
  • Did you know that you don’t have to compromise taste for healthy food?
I learnt all this and more when I attended the Canola Oil Cook Out at the Four Seasons Hotel yesterday. This event was organised jointly by the Canola Oil Council for Canada and Blogadda, the Best Indian Blog Directory.

A Healthy Fat Option

Canola Oil,according to Mr. Bruce Jowett VP Marketing Development, Canola Council of Canada, is pressed from the pepper sized seeds of a sunny,yellow flowering plant that is akin to Rapeseed, a crop that we are familiar with in India as it is grown in approximately 13% of our arable land . This crop which is cultivated by 43,000 farmers in Canada is the largest crop simply because it yields the highest returns. 42% of the seed contains oil which is used for cooking and the balance 58% is used as livestock meal.Incidentally, the meal has shown increased milk production among cattle so it would seem that growing Canola is a win-win for all concerned.
Canola Oil (which is an acronym of Canada + Oil + Low Acid) is made from a modified seed which has less than 2% erucic acid and less than 30 micromoles of glucosinolates which eliminates the bitter taste associated with natural Rapeseed oil. And, in fact, only oil from such seeds can rightly be called Canola Oil and is the healthiest oil we can give our hearts.
While Canola Oil is the preferred medium of cooking in North America and has made inroads even into South America, it is not popular in India. This is largely due to the ignorance of the benefits of Canola Oil and also due to our own cooking preferences. However, a mere comparison of the fats normally consumed clearly show how Canola Oil is the healthiest fat.

The Canola CookOut Event

Say No to Zero fat! Say No to Size Zero!

Ms. Naini Setalvad, one of the panelists , a renowned Mumbai based dietician and nutritionist was one of the early birds and interacted with us before the event formally began. She also addressed us and emphasised the importance of all food groups and how dangerous it was to eliminate oil from our diets. so obsessed are we to become thin and gorgeous that we sacrifice taste and nutrition. But fats are essential and good fats are more so because they help maintain the health of our bones, hearts and thyroids. They affect our skin, blood clotting and also our mood!
Since Canola Oil is good for the heart and good for the health, she says that we should not shun it merely because it was not “Indian”, au contraire we should embrace the benefits of globalisation and take the best from the West.

Epidemiological Transition

Dr. Ashish Contractor, another well known Mumbaikar, one of the pioneers of Asian Heart Institute , and  Head of  its Preventive Cardiology Department, reiterated the fact that heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women and 1/3 of the world’s population dies of a cardiovascular disease. And Indians, unfortunately face a double whammy – diabetes and heart disease – thanks to our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Our general health is determined by genetics (which we can’t control), activity (which we do control : either doing more or less depending on various factors such as predisposition, time etc etc) and food (which we should control). So, he tells us we ought to  make living life healthy a conscious choice and what better way than to control what we eat? Restricting our oil consumption to 15 ml /person a day is all that it takes to make a distinct improvement in one’s diet and if we can consume a healthier oil option, why not go for it? 

Eat at Home!

This advice given by Mr. Ajay Chopra, Executive Chef at the Westin and one of the panelists is the most practical though not for every person, especially those who don’t live at home. But for those of us who do, there is no reason not to have at least one home cooked meal which will address all our health and nutrition issues. Since food is all about taste, appearance, smell and texture, it is important that these paradigms are all met. Let us not kid ourselves, we’ve gained the dubious distinction of being the Diabetes capital of the world because of our deep fried fondness for fried food. The oilier the better is the Highest Common Factor of most Indian cooking and in some regions the factor is even higher!
And since all of us have grown up with our own cooking medium, we are used to a particular taste. But, he tells us Canola oil does not compromise on taste! And as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and he demonstrated to us four recipes – flavoured oils for dipping bread, chocolate samosa, kothmir wadi and watana karanji. The intrinsically colourless and tasteless Canola oil easily absorbed the flavours of red chilli, rosemary and Thai Basil to produce three delicately flavoured oils to dip your bread in. I personally didn’t care for the chilli oil but loved the subtle taste of the Thai Basil. The oil is not greasy on the palate and is a wonderful alternative to the Olive oil that we normally use.

Canola won’t change the taste but will definitely help your waist !

Canola Oil was used as shortening for the dough of both the karanji and samosa and indeed the casing was softer and less greasy than the traditional one. After deep frying, the samosas, karanji and wadis were not greasy as they had absorbed less oil. So here’s one more reason, he said to switch to Canola Oil.

Incidentally Chef Ajay let us in on a small secret : ever since he switched to Canola Oil a month ago, he has lost 4 1/2 kg! Of course he has modified his lifestyle as well but for all of us who don’t like to compromise on food to lose weight, you can take heart from the fact that Canola won’t change the taste but will definitely help your waist !

During this wonderfully informative and enjoyable session, I chanced to meet  some young, pretty, enthusiastic food bloggers. Do visit their amazing blogs.


And that of the winner of the special hamper from Canola for sending in the best recipe.

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An accidental cook who likes to travel, read, watch movies and do yoga. Currently busy with full time granny duties.

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