Q: I've read on the Internet that canola oil is unhealthy. Is this reliable information?
A: It couldn't be farther from the truth. Canola oil is not only safe, but it's a heart-friendly choice for children and adults, says James I. Cleeman, M.D., coordinator of the National Cholesterol Education Program of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Bethesda, MD. "Studies haven't shown otherwise," he says.
One of the few non-fish sources of omega-3 fatty acids, canola oil helps lower cholesterol and keep blood clots from forming in narrowed arteries. Other research shows that omega-3s may enhance brain development in children and stave off certain types of depression. Plus, one tablespoon of canola oil takes care of 45% of a 4- to 8-year-old's daily vitamin E needs.
So is canola oil a better choice than olive oil? "Nutritionally, it's a toss-up," says Dr. Cleeman. Take advantage of blander-tasting canola oil for baking, coating nonstick pans, and other uses where you don't want a lot of flavor. Olive oil's distinctive taste lends itself to pasta sauces and salad dressings.
Whichever you choose, moderation is key since one tablespoon of oil has 120 calories and 14 grams of fat. To figure out how many fat grams a child 2 or over needs daily, divide the number of calories she eats (for a 4-year-old, 1,500) by 3 (500) and divide by 9 (56 grams).