One of the best things about being a registered dietitian nutritionist is learning about food, food and more food, especially when that learning comes with eating!
What a treat for me in July when I was a guest of CanolaInfo to their beautifully designed and executed Taste Touch Teach Tour in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I was in the company of other registered dietitian nutritionists, food experts and journalists. We were lucky to spend 2½ days touring a canola farm, dining on amazing food prepared with canola oil, chatting with farmers and chefs, and learning about canola farming and the uses and health benefits of canola oil.
I’ve used canola oil for years. It’s is a wonderful kitchen companion because it has a neutral taste that lets the flavors of the other foods shine. Plus, it has a high smoke point, making it an ideal oil for high temperature cooking. Canola oil is also a good friend to the heart because it has less cholesterol-boosting saturated fats than other commonly used oils. And it’s one of few oils containing ALA, a heart-shielding omega-3 fatty acid.
Since my trip to Saskatoon, I’m an even bigger fan of canola oil. Why? Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen the canola plants in various stages of growth. I’ve walked through the beautiful fields with flowers as bright yellow as the scorching sun. I’ve tasted those flowers (they have a hint of broccoli because they are part of the same family) and several types of canola oil. But mostly, I’ve learned that the growers put their hearts and souls into their fields to produce the greatest quality oil while carefully protecting the soil, water and air. How could I not be a fan of both the oil and the farmers?
Cool things I learned about canola and canola farming
The rapeseed plant is the canola plant’s parent. Using traditional plant breeding in the 1970s, scientists created canola, which contains significantly lower levels of erucic acid and glucosinolates. Removing the glucosinolates made the plant more palatable. The name canola comes from a combination of Canadian and ola, which means oil.
Forty-three thousand Canadian farmers work 20 million acres of canola. It is the top revenue producer for Canadian farmers.
No waste product. The canola seed is quite rich in oil with about 45% of the seed being oil. Once the seed is crushed and the oil extracted, the remaining meal is used as an important protein source for dairy cows.
Thoughtful farming practices. The sharp farmers I met have fully embraced technology to better their farming techniques, improve yield and care for the environment. For example, they sample the soil to determine the proper fertilizers and amounts of fertilizers necessary. And they use auto steering and a GPS system to be certain that no part of the farm is over treated.
Bees love canola. And canola loves bees. The canola flower is an important source of nectar and pollen for honeybees. Canola fields bloom for a fairly long time, so one field can provide nectar for three or four weeks. Honeybees return the favor to canola plants by encouraging greater yield.
Now when I reach for a bottle of canola oil from my cabinet, I think of the farmers and their hard work.