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Canola oil vs Olive oil in chimichurri

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I have been reading this one book lately Unsavory Truth by Marion Nestle, because I believe that understanding the industry that I operate in is constantly changing and I want to keep up with what goes on. This book has given me such a different perspective of what I understood to be the industry

Over the years, many people have approached us asking us why don't we use olive oil instead of the current oil that we use, which is Canola.

We have spent many hours throughout many years researching this, asking people what it is about Canola oil that they avoid specifically, and we have not been able to find any scientific proof that were strongly backed by any studies that we were able to find. With that said, we respect dietary choices and restrictions, and we understand that our products may not be for everyone.

The health argument:

I am not going to tell you that I am an expert in oil extraction. I am not, but I do hear what our customers tell me, and we try to find alternative options that work. With said, we have found that olive oil is considered "healthy" because it is mechanically extracted from olives, and there are essentially no other chemicals used (although the crushed olives are heated to remove the oil) and the run through a centrifuge to separate the oil from the pulp.

On the other hand, the prevailing argument that we hear is that Canola oil is "unhealthy" because it is extracted using a solvent called hexane according to this Harvard article.(and confirmed with a 2nd source from the National Library of Medicine

One of the interesting facts is that Canola oil  has a low amount of saturated and a substantial amount of monounsaturated fats with roughly 2:1 mono to polyunsaturated fatty acids []. In general, it contains 61% oleic acid which is classified as a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid, 11% α-linolenic acid and 21% linoleic acid which are omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and 7% saturated fatty acids [,]. Canola oil is second to olive oil in oleic acid content and intermediate among other vegetable oils in polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). It contains high level of PUFA comparing to olive and palm oil but lower level than corn, soybean, and sunflower oils []. In addition, it contains phytosterols, tocopherols, which are biologically active isomers of vitamin E [,], beta-carotenes and chlorophylls [](National Library of Medicine)


The Cholesterol side:

According to different articles, one from the Pub med and this on from Harvard School of Public Health, we have found that Canola oil helps with lowering of LDL (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) in subjects "under 50"(source). 

In the words of Dr. Guy Crosby, Adjunct Associate Professor of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health:

"Although care must be taken in handling and processing of canola oil and other vegetable oils, canola oil is a safe and healthy form of fat that will reduce blood LDL cholesterol levels and heart disease risk compared to carbohydrates or saturated fats such as found in beef tallow or butter.  Indeed, in a randomized trial that showed one of the most striking reductions in risk of heart disease, canola oil was used as the primary form of fat. [8] Whether using cold-pressed canola oil provides some small additional benefit is not clear." (source)


The [8] refence in the article excerpt above: de Lorgeril et al. Mediterranean alpha-linolenic acid-rich diet in secondary prevention of coronary heart disease Lancet 1994 Jun 11;343(8911):1454-9 (link to study)



The inflammation side:

Many people have brought up to us that they avoid Canola oil because it causes inflammation. When we run a search on Google scholar for: "Canola oil causes inflammation" we don't really get a lot of hits for how Canola oil causes inflammation at all, as a matter of fact we used that phrasing to see if we could get hits that would give us hits to confirm the negative bias inherent to the wording, but we did not get that result, instead we got this:

We purposefully went looking for peer reviewed studies instead of random/popular online sources, because we wanted to get what we considered was a more reliable and science based information source.

Based on some of the articles we found (we realize that when we say "some", it may sound like we are cherry picking, but we really tried to go for the most  possible problematic articles that would paint Canola oil in the worst possible light)

According to this article:(The effects of canola and olive oils on insulin resistance, inflammation and oxidative stress in women with type 2 diabetes: a randomized and controlled trial) the conclusion of this study of 77 women with type 2 diabetes:

"Replacing Canola Oil and Olive Oil with Sunflower Oil as part of daily dietary fat in the diet of people with type 2 diabetes is recommended for reducing Inflammation and Oxidative Stress."(source)

Because this study was limited, we continued our research and we found this other article, published in Nature, in 2020: The effects of extra virgin olive oil and canola oil on inflammatory markers and gastrointestinal symptoms in patients with ulcerative colitis.

Where their conclusion was:

"Intake of EVOO decreased the inflammatory markers and improved gastrointestinal symptoms in UC patients. It seems this functional food can be beneficial in the treatment of UC as a complementary medicine."


Based on this research(last done in Mid May 2024) We have not been able to  find scientific evidence that Canola Oil causes inflammation in healthy people. Unless you are suffering of Ulcerative Colitis and/or type 2 diabetes, there doesn't seem to be an inflammation cause by Canola oil in healthy people, or at least we were not able to find any research that pointed this out


The flavor argument:

EVOO(Extra Virgin Olive Oil) is very strong in flavor, and also has a tint of green. It works great as a last touch in a salad. A dish that will be consumed fairly quickly after the olive oil is applied to it, and that works great. 

For chimichurri, the application is different. Because the chimichurri sits in oil for longer than a few minutes, the smell and flavor of EVOO permeate all the spices, overtaking every other flavor. Think about it like this. You like your coffee with milk and sugar,  but would you have your coffee with goatmilk and sugar? 

Goatmilk and cowmilk are both milk, but the flavor of regular cow milk is a lot softer  while goatmilk is a lot gamier. EVOO and Canola oil work in the same way. EVOO is very strong in flavor, while Canola oil is considered a neutral flavor oil.

There are a number of articles and studies from different sources and researchers that claim different things. We are not experts when it comes to health claims on either one, we do look into them and inform ourselves, because we owe you, our customers a safe product. 

We optimize for flavor, and we strive to provide a safe product that has been approved in different markets by a number of countries and governments. And based on our experience and research, we have found Canola oil to be considered safe for human consumption. 


The visual argument:

We recommend for people to refrigerate chimichurri. The reason is because we make it fresh and we want people to have it fresh, if they choose to. A lot of people will make the chimichurri, and then let it pickle. There is no incorrect way of eating it. But we like to give YOU the option to eat it however you like. 

If you leave your chimi out at room temperature, it will evolve in its flavor, while leaving it in the refrigerator will slow down the process. 

The average fridge sits at around 40° which is a problem visually speaking. That is because olive oil starts solidifying at around 54° (this temperature is variable though, depending on the conditions the olive was grown in) while Canola oil stars freezing at around 32° which means that it is closer to freezing temperature of water.

So, when you leave olive oil in the fridge it will look like butter soft butter. If you want butter, that's great, but most people are not very fond of chimichurri looking like butter. 

In conclusion, we are open to hear what people have to say and are more than  happy and willing to explore different oils, but we have not yet found a better alternative to what we use today. 

 This is wat refrigerated olive oil looks like:


You can also see a comparison between refrigerated Canola oil and Pure Olive oil on the featured image of this post.





Notes from the author:

I, Pablo, am not a food scientist, chemist or biologist, and I understand that there may be people with anecdotal experiences that differ from what is written here. 

As more research is done, and WE(as a human collective) understand more, I would be more than happy to revise writing. As you can see, this article was first published in November 2023, and reviewed in May 2024.

I am more than happy to learn more about this issue. If you have any scientific resources, please don't hesitate to send them my way. I would be more than happy to take a look



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