If you’ve tuned into social media in the last few years, it’s likely you’ve seen an influencer share their two cents on vegetable oils, canola oil being one of them. While these claims may be scary, we know you need more of the evidence-based facts to help you draw your own conclusions on whether a food is right for you. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 37.3 million (or 11.3 % of) Americans have diabetes (and nearly 38% more of the adult population has prediabetes). It’s important to be aware of how food—and ingredients, like canola oil—can help (or hinder) diabetes. 

We dove into the research surrounding canola oil and spoke to leading diabetes and nutrition experts in the field so you can feel confident in your food choices. Whether this is knowledge you want for yourself or for a loved one, we’ll get into the facts (not fears) about including canola oil in a diabetes-friendly diet. 

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How Canola Oil Affects Those with Diabetes

First things first, it’s helpful to have a good understanding of dietary fats. There are two main types of fats found in the diet: unsaturated and saturated. In short, unsaturated fats may provide some benefits to your heart, brain and more, while saturated fats should be enjoyed in a more limited way (more on the difference between these two types of fats here).

Unsaturated fats come in two forms: monounsaturated (meaning they have one double bond in their chemical structure), or polyunsaturated (meaning they have more than one double bond in their chemical structure). You can include both types of unsaturated fat in a balanced diet. In fact, many foods contain a blend of both—canola oil included.

Now, how do these fat types affect someone with diabetes?

Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats have received praise thanks to their favorable effects on total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, two important markers of cardiovascular health. Given the increased risk of heart disease for those with diabetes, it’s important to keep your cardiovascular health in mind. But, research shows there may be a little more bang for your bite when you consume monounsaturated fats like those found in canola oil. A 2014 study published in Diabetes Care found consumption of canola oil in conjunction with education on a low-glycemic diet resulted in improved glycemic control and even lowered systolic blood pressure in patients with type 2 diabetes. Since keeping blood sugar and blood pressure levels under control is important for those with diabetes, this research again disproves the social media slants against canola oil. 

Certified diabetes expert and New Jersey-based registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES, author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet, agrees: “The impact of canola oil and other vegetable oils on people living with type 2 diabetes can depend on how they are used. Portion size, timing and what ingredient they are swapped for can all impact the health benefits. When used in small quantities at a balanced meal in replacement of refined carbohydrates and/or saturated fats, canola oil may improve LDL cholesterol levels and help to balance post-meal glucose levels.” 

Can You Eat Canola Oil If You Have Diabetes? 

The short answer: yes. Palinkski-Wade shares, “Someone with diabetes can use canola oil and, depending on how it is used, it may even offer benefits.”  For instance, a 2018 study published in the Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders found that those with type 2 diabetes who consumed canola oil experienced improved insulin resistance, lower inflammation and less oxidative stress. While Palinski-Wade notes the limitations of this study, specifically pointing to the small sample size, it supports prior research and reinforces that canola oil, especially when used in replacement of saturated fat, may benefit cholesterol levels

Florida-based certified diabetes expert and registered dietitian nutritionist Kimberley Francis, RDN, CDCES, CNSC, shares, “Canola oil is healthy since it contains monounsaturated fatty acids. Compared to saturated fats in foods like butter, fatty meats and cheese, MUFAs may help reduce body weight and insulin resistance.”

With that said, both dietitians agree that both the cooking methods and portion size matter when using canola oil as part of a diabetes-friendly diet. Palinski-Wade writes, “Deep-frying can negatively affect the beneficial components of canola oil, such as alpha-linolenic acid. If the oil is being utilized in combination with lower-nutrient density foods, such as frequent intake of deep-fried foods, this can also lead to negative health outcomes.” 

And, as with everything in our diet, too much of anything (even good-for-us foods) isn’t a good thing. Francis shares, “Consuming too much dietary fat, even the monounsaturated fatty acids in canola oil, may result in unwanted weight gain, reduced sensitivity to insulin and poor glucose management.”

Tips for Including Canola Oil in a Healthy Diabetes-Appropriate Diet

Canola oil is extremely versatile in the kitchen thanks to its neutral flavor and high smoke point, meaning it can withstand cooking at higher temperatures. Palinski-Wade and Francis shared a few tips to help you enjoy canola oil in a blood-sugar-friendly way. 

Consume meals that contain protein, fat and fiber to help stabilize glucose levels. Canola oil can be an easy and cost-effective way to increase unsaturated fats in a meal that also helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels. For instance, a meal containing lean protein like salmon paired with a scoop of rice and vegetables sautéed in canola oil may balance blood sugar levels more than eating rice and fish alone. 

Swapping saturated fat with unsaturated fat may also help to improve total cholesterol and LDL levels, which is especially important for people with diabetes. By replacing saturated fat, such as butter, in a recipe with canola oil, you can reduce your saturated fat intake and increase the heart-healthy unsaturated fats in your meal. 

The neutral flavor of canola oil works well in baked goods. Plus, its high smoke point makes it a good choice for high-heat cooking like roasting, broiling, grilling, stir-frying and sautéing. You can also use canola oil cooking spray instead of butter or other saturated fats to coat pans when baking your favorite desserts.

Need some inspiration to get you started using canola oil in the kitchen? Consider whipping up EatingWell’s reader-favorite waffles, whisking Grandma’s favorite vinaigrette or marinating your proteins. We promise, there is something for everyone!

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. Does canola oil cause inflammation?

According to Palniski-Wade, “Although some research has found canola oil to be inflammatory, this research has been on animals and may not apply to humans. In fact, multiple studies have found canola oil may offer health benefits, such as improving LDL cholesterol levels.” She also points out, “How canola oil is consumed and with what foods can play a much larger role on overall nutrition and health.” 

2. How does canola oil affect blood sugars?

Since canola oil is a dietary fat, it does not raise blood sugars the way in which a food that is carbohydrate-based would. In fact, canola oil contains zero carbohydrates. However, it’s important to consider how foods made with canola oil are prepared and what they’re being consumed with. For instance, a fried dough will likely have a greater effect on your blood sugar levels than a lean protein prepared in canola oil. 

3. How much canola oil should someone with diabetes eat in a day?  

“Portion size matters,” Francis reminds us. Given canola oil is a dietary fat, it is a calorically dense food and contains approximately 120 calories per tablespoon with 14 grams of total fat. Of this, 9 grams are monounsaturated fats, 4 grams are polyunsaturated fats and only 1 gram is coming from saturated fat. Consider using smaller quantities to stay within your daily energy needs while still reaping the benefits this fat may offer. 

The Bottom Line

Contrary to the influencers’ opinions on social media, credentialed health experts confirm that canola oil may offer favorable benefits when people with diabetes incorporate it as part of a balanced, healthy diet. Experiment with canola oil in your whole-grain baking recipes, sauté your favorite vegetables in it, or simply whisk up a simple dressing to drizzle over greens. Avoid the clickbait and instead continue to seek out the facts when it comes to incorporating foods, like canola oil, in your diabetes-friendly diet. 

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