Rapeseed, botanically brassica napus, is a flowering member of the family Brassicaceae. It is also known by the names of rape, oilseed rape, rapa, rapaseed and canola. Its name is originated from the Latin word for turnip, rāpum or rāpa, and is first recorded in English at the end of the 14th century. This bright yellow flowering plant is widely cultivated in Canada, the United States, Australia, China, India and European countries for the production of animal feed, vegetable oil for human consumption, and biodiesel.
The edible oil extracted from the seed of the rape or rapeseed plant is known as rapeseed oil. In 2000, it was the third leading source of vegetable oil in the world after soybean and oil palm. Known for its its great taste and subtle flavour, this vegetable oil is the world’s second leading source of protein meal, although only one-fifth of the production of the leading soybean meal. It is one of the oldest of cultivated crops and is the source of canola oil. Natural rapeseed oil contains 50% erucic acid, which is mildly toxic to humans, if consumed in large doses; but is used as a food additive in smaller doses.
Now popular as cooking oil, its first use, thousands of years ago, was in lamps. There are two main types of rapeseed oil viz. industrial rapeseed oil and food-grade rapeseed oil. The former is used to produce fuels, lubricants, etc; whereas the latter is used in variety of food applications. Canola (Canadian Oilseed, Low-Acid) is a special cultivar of rapeseed used to produce food-grade oil.
100 gm of canola/ rapeseed oil contains around 884 Calorie. It contains less saturated fat and has far more omega 3 than olive oil and it also contains vitamin E. This vegetable oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids that reduce blood cholesterol levels and is a good source of essential fatty acids that the body must obtain in the diet.
Rapeseed oil contains both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in a ratio of 2:1 and is second only to flax oil in omega-3 fatty acid. They are quite helpful in lowering the cholesterol/serum tryglyceride levels, and keep platelets from sticking together.
Regarded as a healthy and heart-friendly oil, rapeseed oil is widely used in variety of applications. It is a common ingredient in:
- Salad Dressings
- Sandwich Spreads
- Coffee Whiteners
- Cake Mixes
- Fried Snacks, etc.
As a Biodiesel
Rapeseed oil is used in the manufacture of biodiesel for powering motor vehicles. It is the preferred oil stock for biodiesel production in most of Europe, partly because rapeseed produces more oil per unit of land area compared to other oil sources, such as soy beans.