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What Is Rapeseed Oil?

Rapeseed oil is processed from the seeds of Brassica napus plants.
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  • Written By: Helena Reimer
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2014
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Rapeseed oil is processed from the seeds of the Brassica napus, also known as rapeseed or rapaseed. The plant is a member of the Brassicaceae family, which includes cabbages, mustard, and turnips. It is often referred to as canola oil and is used for industrial purposes as well as in food preparations. As it has many uses and benefits, rapeseed oil has become one of the most popular oils on the market.

In its natural form, rapeseed oil is high in erucic acid, which is a form of omega 9 fatty acids. Large amounts of erucic acid have been linked to heart problems and autism. In addition, the oil also contains high amounts of glucosinolates, which cause a bitter taste.

Due to the high levels of erucic acid and bitterness, the oil was first produced for industrial purposes, such as a lubricant for steam engines. Since then, however, the rapeseed plant has been bred to reduce the amount of erucic acid and glucosinolates, so that it can be used in cooking and other food preparations. The original rapeseed oil could contain up to 50 percent erucic acid, but the food-grade approved oil contains only about two percent.

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The oil is available in cold-pressed and heat-processed varieties. Cold-pressed rapeseed oil is obtained simply by crushing the seeds and extracting the oil without any heat or other solvents and is said to be more flavorful and nutritious. Organic rapeseed oil is also available and is generally more expensive, especially if it is cold-pressed. The crushed rapeseed meal is high in protein even after the oil is extracted from it. Therefore, the meal is often sold as a by-product in animal feeds.

Favored in cooking, the oil is widely used to prepare a variety of foods. It has a high smoke point, which means that it can be used in frying and other high-heat cooking without losing its antioxidants and other vital nutrients. It is also a good substitute for olive oil and other oils in salad dressings and sauces.

There are many health benefits associated with rapeseed oil, which is partially due to the high amounts of monounsaturated fats, such as the omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. The fatty acids are heart healthy and can help to reduce cholesterol levels and prevent blood from clotting. They are also essential in boosting the immune system, helping to prevent cancer, and also preventing infectious diseases.

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