Food With Hydrogenated Oil Blog is an online journal written by nutritionists and physicians that provides the latest news and research on food cooked in hydrogenated oil. This type of oil is used in most processed foods, including french fries, doughnuts, donuts, pastries, cakes and cookies
10 Types of Food That Have High Trans Fats
Although a small amount of trans fat occurs naturally in foods, most are liquid fats that have been turned into solids through a chemical process known as hydrogenation. Consuming trans fat has been proven to raise blood lipids, promote inflammation and cause blood vessel abnormalities that increase chances of developing heart disease and other chronic conditions. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Institute of Health recommend avoiding all trans fats as much as possible; therefore, any food containing more than 0.5 gram per serving can be considered high in trans fat.
Stick Margarines and Vegetable Shortening
The trans fat in margarine and shortening allows the products to stay solid at room temperature. Margarine was created as an alternative to butter to decrease the amount of saturated fat in the standard diet. Saturated fat is known to increase the levels of unhealthy cholesterol in our blood, known as LDL. However, the trans fat in margarine not only increases LDL cholesterol but also lowers good cholesterol, HDL.
Commercial Baked Goods
Commercial baked goods such as packaged snack cakes, cookies, breads, muffins and pies often contain shortening or partially hydrogenated oils, laden with trans fats. Solid trans fats are more stable than liquid fats, allowing manufacturers to keep products on shelves longer without compromising flavor. Refrigerated dough products like pizza dough, cinnamon rolls and biscuits can also contain trans fat.
Milk, milk products and meat contain naturally occurring trans fats that are produced in the stomachs of grazing animals such as cows, goats and sheep. There is no known association between an increase in heart disease or arteriosclerosis with these naturally occurring fats, unlike the positive association seen with man-made trans fats, according to a study published in 2011 in “Advances in Nutrition.”
The good news is that some restaurant chains have stopped frying food in hydrogenated oils and have made attempts to cut down on the trans fats in their products. However, many others have been slow to adopt healthier alternatives. French fries, chicken nuggets, crispy chicken or fish and even burgers can contain trans fats.
Cake Mixes and Frostings
Packaged cake mixes and icings often contain trans fats to increase their shelf life. Also beware of boxed pancake, waffle, muffin and biscuit mixes.
Frozen pizza crusts, frozen dinners, hash browns, French fries and chicken nuggets are notoriously high in trans fats. Check the label for trans-fat-free products when selecting frozen foods.
Potato chips, cheese curls, crackers, microwave popcorn and candy often contain trans fats. However, some manufacturers have made the move to eliminate all trans fats from their products.
Toppings and Dips
Check the labels of whipped toppings, salad dressings, gravy mixes and bean dips for trans fats. When dining out, skip the creamy dressings and whipped toppings to avoid any unwanted trans fat.
Coffee Creamer and Drink Mixes
Liquid coffee creamers often contain partially hydrogenated oils, also known as trans fat. Powder creamers can contain trans fats as well to keep them on the shelves for months at a time. Some chocolate drink mixes — powders and syrups — also have trans fat.
Some breakfast bars and cereals marketed as a healthy start to your day can contain hidden sources of trans fats. Steer clear of breakfast sandwiches served at fast food chains and packaged or frozen breakfast sandwiches, which can contain up to 3 grams of trans fat per sandwich.
Decreasing Trans Fat in Your Diet
Always check the nutrition label to determine the grams of trans fat in a serving, but be aware that foods containing less than 0.5 gram of trans fat per serving can still be labeled as trans fat-free.
Food With Hydrogenated Oil
- Fried Foods
Fried foods — like french fries, mozzarella sticks, and fish sticks — may have trans fat, depending on what type of oil they have been cooked in. You should enjoy them in moderation, if at all.
Margarine is sometimes marketed as a healthier alternative to butter, but some kinds of margarine actually contain up to two grams of trans fat per tablespoon. However, there are more and more options on the market that use natural alternatives to make the product trans-fat-free.
- Non-Dairy Coffee Creamer
It’s possible that your daily dose of caffeine has also been giving you a daily dose of trans fats. Many non-dairy coffee creamers use oils that contain trans fats. Make sure to look at the list of ingredients to find out what type of oil it contains.
- Meat & Dairy
Trans fat occurs naturally in meat and dairy products. However, scientists need to do more research on these naturally occurring trans fats enough to know if they’re as harmful as artificial ones. Many believe it is still a good idea to cut down on possible intake by eating lean meats and low-fat dairy products.
- Naturally Occurring Oils
Instead of eating products with artificial oils, try natural ones like olive oil, corn oil, or canola oil to avoid trans fat.
- Plant-Based Meat Alternatives
Eating a few vegetarian meals per week can help you avoid trans fats. These days, meat alternatives are much more than just tofu. Companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are working to make plant-based meats taste just like the real thing.
- Plant-Based Dairy Alternatives
Instead of traditional non-dairy coffee creamer for your morning cup of joe, try some oat milk or almond milk creamer. These options have zero trans fats and some brands have formulated special “barista” products centered around making your coffee amazing.
- Foods with Monounsaturated Fat and Omega 3 Fatty Acids
When you replace trans-fat foods, make sure you don’t end up eating too many saturated fats: they’re not as bad for you as trans fats, but should still be consumed in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends that saturated fats make up no more than 6% of your calorie intake.
Most of your fats should come from monounsaturated fats, which actually help to reduce LDL cholesterol levels. These are mainly found in olive and peanut oils. Other healthy fat options include omega 3 fatty acids, which you can find in fish and nuts.
Why You Should Avoid Trans Fats
Consuming trans fats, especially those from hydrogenated oils, increases your LDL cholesterol. This is the “bad” type of cholesterol that clogs and hardens your arteries, leading to a higher risk of blood clotting, heart attack, or stroke.
As there is no real nutritional benefit to including hydrogenated oil in your diet, doctors recommend reducing your intake of trans fats as much as possible. In fact, the FDA recently banned products containing partially hydrogenated oils in the US, as they are one of the most common sources of trans fat.
However, some of these products may still be on the market until 2021: the FDA is allowing companies to sell products that businesses produced before the ban took place. Additionally, if a product has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, food companies can market it as having 0 grams of trans fats, so it’s still important to be aware of foods that may contain it.
Hydrogenated fat is found in many cakes, pastries and ready meals, but has a nutritional dark side. So why is it there? Alok Jha reports
Did you eat a cereal bar on the way to work this morning? Grab a muffin at the coffee shop to beat the midmorning blues? Were there any pies or pastries in your lunch (maybe with a portion of chips as well)? Biscuits at tea time? Maybe you have even bought a frozen dessert for tonight’s dinner? If this sounds like an average day, you could be at risk. Not just from the excess calories or excess sugar that fill our modern processed-food diets, but from a type of synthetic fat, the so-called “trans fats “. Scientists have found that the human body doesn’t know what to do with these trans fats – a byproduct of the hydrogenation process that allows manufacturers to use vegetable oils in processed food – and ends up just storing them, leading to untold potential problems in the future. Nutritionists say these fats need to be removed from our diets as soon as possible.
Fat has become the watchword for unhealthy living and, unless you ‘re on a low-carb diet, you probably think that eating too much of it is a bad thing. In particular, unsaturated fat (derived from vegetables)is better for us than saturated fat (which comes mainly from animals). If we could introduce more unsaturated fats into our diet, then, we should be on to a winner.
The problem is that most unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature: think of any vegetable-based oil you might use for frying. But there is only a limited amount you can do with oils – they’re useless for, say, spreading on bread, or for baking. But bubble hydrogen through vegetable oil in the presence of a block of a nickel-based catalyst, and the oil becomes more useful. The hydrogen atoms attach themselves to specific sites on the long-chain carbon molecules that make up the oil. The modified oil molecules are then able to stack together much more efficiently, reducing the overall mobility of the liquid. In short, the oil becomes a solid. The more hydrogen you use, the harder the resulting fat. Hydrogenation not only turns vegetable oils into a more useful form for food manufacture, it can prolong the oil’s shelf life. And hydrogenated fats are everywhere: they are the oils used for frying at your local chip shop; they are the fats used by food manufacturers to make cheap cakes and biscuits that can stay on the shelf for months; and they are used to fill up junk foods and chocolate-flavoured sweets. They ‘re also used in small amounts to keep ready-made foods from spoiling: quiches, for example, are often made with a thin layer of hydrogenated fat spread over their pastry bases to prevent the moisture from the filling seeping through and making it soggy.
But this seemingly innocuous industrial process has long held a nutritional dark side. Hydrogenation not only turns some of the normally polyunsaturated vegetable oil into the less-healthy saturated form, it also produces a set of synthetic trans fatty acids, a byproduct that is thought by scientists to be the worst possible type of fat for the human body. Some scientists have concluded that these fats are even more damaging to human health than the much-maligned saturated fats.
One study after another has shown that trans fats increase the overall levels of cholesterol in the blood, which, in turn, could lead to an increased risk of heart disease. The work has led a wealth of health experts from around the world to recommend restrictions in the production and consumption of trans fats and, ultimately, on the use of hydrogenation in the food industry.
The story begins in the early 1990s with the release of a paper in the Lancet. A team of scientists, led by Walter Willett at the Harvard School of Public Health, published research that had followed the eating patterns of up to 70, 000 people over several years. Willett had worked out the exact profile of nutrients they ‘d been consuming and found that those with an increased trans fat intake had an increased level of cholesterol in their blood.
What’s more, when Willett looked at the breakdown of the types of cholesterol, he found that the trans fats had decreased the level of HDL cholesterol (the good type) while simultaneously raising the LDL cholesterol (the bad sort). It was a double-whammy that started a landslide of bad publicity for hydrogenation.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s 1993 report on fats and oils called for hydrogenated fats to be completely removed from the plates of the public. In 1994, the Harvard team published research that showed that replacing just 2%of a person’s energy intake from trans fats with unhydrogenated or unsaturated fats could slash their chances of getting heart disease by 50%.
And the hits keep coming. “There’s a new risk factor for heart disease, something called lipoprotein (a), and trans fatty acid is the only dietary component we know of to date that actually increases it, “says Anne Minahin, a lecturer in human nutrition at Reading University.
Governments and health organisations went on a warpath against trans fats and began to try and reduce the world’s intake. The Food Standards Agency (FSA)in Britain now recommends that trans fats should make up no more than 2%of a person’s energy intake. America’s Institute of Medicine (IoM)went even further. In the conclusion of a report on trans fats published in 2002, it says, “There is a positive linear trend between trans fatty acid intake and total and LDL cholesterol concentration, and therefore increased risk of coronary heart disease, thus suggesting a tolerable upper intake level of zero. “
Trans fats took on the role of the ultimate pariah in the food chain – a chemical with no possible benefits and something to be removed from public consumption as soon as possible. Trans fats do occur naturally in the guts of cows and sheep, so there are small amounts even in the most organic of butters, but it is of little consequence. “Dairy products have taken a bit of a slating in general recently and one of the reasons is that they naturally contain some of these trans fatty acids, ” says Minahin. . “But a number of epidemiological studies have shown that if you look at trans fatty acids in general, the negative association with blood lipids [fat molecules in the blood ] seems to be specific for the artificial types. . “
But getting consumers to reduce their trans fat intake is not straightforward. “At the moment, trans fatty acids are not labelled in this country, so that makes it quite difficult for the public to determine where the major sources of trans fatty acids are, “says Toni Steer, a researcher at the Medical Research Council’s human nutrition research unit in Cambridge. Action from the food manufacturers is, therefore, vital in bringing the intake of the synthetic fats down. The signs are good:perhaps sensing a potential public-relations nightmare, many companies have taken the concerns to heart. “The food manufacturers have taken this on board and have done everything they can to bring the levels as low as possible, “says Minahin.
Reducing the use of hydrogenation in their food manufacture was the only way of reducing the trans fat in foods. “As a company producing products like Flora, we felt it was justifiable to reduce the trans fatty acid content of our products and also not increase our saturates, which are also bad for heart health, “says Anne Heughin, corporate nutrition and health manager at Unilever. “The reason we reduced the amount of hydrogenation we used was really to do with the nutritional issue. ” Unilever says that it has not used partially hydrogenated fats since the mid-1990s.
The industry response has, no doubt, been a factor in the reduction of trans fat intake in the UK diet. According to a survey carried out by the FSA in 2000/01, the average intake of trans fat is 1.2% of dietary energy. This compares with an average of around 2.6% of total energy intake in 1986. But the vast majority of that still comes from processed foods such as cakes, fat spreads, biscuits, pastries and deep-fried foods.
Completely removing trans fats from our diets could still be just a pipe dream, though. “Because trans fatty acids are unavoidable in ordinary diets, achieving [an upper limit of zero ] would require extraordinary changes in the patterns of dietary intake, “the IoM says in its 2002 report. “Such extraordinary adjustments may introduce other undesirable effects (eg, elimination of foods, such as dairy products and meats that contain trans fatty acids may result in inadequate intakes of protein and certain micronutrients) and unknown and unquantifiable health risks may be introduced by any extreme adjustments in dietary pattern. It is recommended that trans fatty acid consumption be as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet. “
To make matters even more complicated, one group of scientists argues that the whole trans fat issue may be a red herring. Rudolph Riemersma, a professor at the Cardiovascular Research Unit at Edinburgh University, says that the original Harvard studies were flawed. “This is the group in Harvard who suggested that betacarotene [a chemical that the body converts to vitamin A, common in many fruits and vegetables ] was good for you, “he points out. “We then had international clinical trials looking at betacarotene and we found that it actually increased mortality. “His problem with the research is that it is, essentially, circumstantial. He says that, until there are randomised controlled clinical trials comparing people who do and do not eat trans fats, whether or not there is a link between the fats and increased heart disease is still an open question.
As for the industrial processes being used to replace hydrogenation – processes known as interestification and fractionation – no one can say at this stage whether they are merely replacing one problem with another by creating new and as-yet-undiscovered synthetic chemicals that could cause harm to health. Interestification, for example, rearranges the chemical structure of the fats and can produce unnatural forms that the body may find difficult to process. But Dr Jens Kristott, technical export manager for Britannia Foods Ingredients Ltd, a company that supplies fats to the confectionery industry, says that interestification, though not perfect, is by far the lesser evil. The research is yet to be done, but he suspects that any unnatural chemicals produced would certainly not be as harmful as trans fats. Even so, his own company prefers to use fractionation of palm oil, a process that keeps the fat from changing chemically, as a way of producing fats for industrial use. The process itself is restrictive, however, as it can only be used with fats that are already solids at room temperature. So it is no good for anyone wanting to produce solid forms of sunflower or rapeseed oil, for example.
But whatever the objections against the demonisation of trans fats and the limitations of the processes designed to replace hydrogenation, mainstream scientific opinion is still powering ahead with advice to cut out trans fats. This month, the World Health Organisation will call for its member countries to agree restrictions on the consumption of trans fats in their diets as part of a wider policy on nutrition. And the FSA is planning further talks with industry on keeping levels of trans fats in processed food as low as possible.
Ultimately, it will be up to ourselves to take stock of what we are eating. “For most of us, we don’t get that much [trans fats ], “says Minahin. “But, there are a lot of people who live on cakes and pastries and processed foods. Those people could get a lot of trans in their diets quite inadvertently. “
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Fats: Know Your Fats
Some fats in your diet are healthy and necessary, but you should take care to reduce saturated fats and transfats. Healthy fats are the monounsaturated fats (like olive oil) and polyunsaturated fats (like those found in fish).
Fat is a nutrient and needed for the normal function of the body. But it also is eaten way too much by way of processed food, super-sized fast food, frozen food, fried food, hot dogs and hamburgers, and all manner of snacks and desserts. Couple this diet with low levels of physical activity and you have a lifestyle tailor-made for the development of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology Lifestyle Management Guidelines (2013) urge people to eat a healthy diet and:
- Decrease saturated fats (Reduce to no more than 5% to 6% of total calories)
- Decrease trans fats
Learning about these fats will help you reach your goal to decrease heart and blood vessel disease.
Saturated fats are found mostly in animal products such as meat, milk, cheese, butter and cream, and tropical oils.
They are solid or waxy at room temperature.
The American Heart Association urges a diet thatgets only 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat. Most likely this is less than what is currently in your diet. Listed below are some foods that are high in saturated fat.
- Beef, pork, lamb, veal, and the skin of poultry
- Hot dogs, bacon and high-fat luncheon meats (such as salami and bologna)
- High-fat dairy products (such as whole milk, 2% milk, 4% cottage cheese)
- Butter and lard
- Sauces and gravies made from animal fat
- Most fried foods and fast foods
- Bacon fat
- Tropical oils – palm, palm kernel, and coconut
- Desserts and sweets made with lard, butter or tropical oils
To cut the saturated fat in your diet, make the following substitutions:
|Instead of …||Choose …|
|Butter||Trans fat-free tub margarine|
|Regular cheese||Low-fat or non-fat cheese|
|Creamer or half and half||Non-fat creamer or non-fat half and half|
|Whole or 2% milk||1% or non-fat (skim) milk|
|Regular cream cheese||Reduced-fat or non-fat cream cheese|
|Regular ice cream||Non-fat or low-fat frozen yogurt or sorbet|
|2-4% milkfat cottage cheese||1% or non-fat cottage cheese|
|Alfredo, cream sauces||Marinara, primavera or light olive-oil based sauces|
|Regular mayonnaise||Light or non-fat mayonnaise|
|Prime grades of beef||Choice or Select grades of beef|
|Chicken with skin on||Chicken without skin|
|Whole egg||Egg whites or egg substitutes|
Most foods you choose should contain no more than 2 grams (g) of saturated fat per serving. No more than 5%, 6% or 7% of your daily calorie intake should come from saturated fats. Depending on your calorie level, your daily saturated fat limit will vary.
|Daily Calories||Daily Saturated Fat Limit (g)|
Trans fatty acids are formed when a liquid fat is converted to solid fat through a process called hydrogenation. Many manufacturers use hydrogenated fats in their ingredients because it helps increase the shelf-life and helps improve texture and consistency.
There are currently no safe levels of trans fat to consume each day, so try to keep your daily intake as low as possible.
- Avoid foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils (such as most processed foods including cookies, crackers, fried snacks, baked goods). They will contain some level of trans fat, even if the label states “trans-fat-free.” Since the ingredients listed on a food label are provided in order of weight, foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils at the top of the ingredients list contain more trans fat than those that contain partially hydrogenated oils lower on the list. Therefore, watch your portion size.
- Avoid using shortening, an example of trans fat in its purest form. Some shortenings now claim to be free of trans fat; however, this may only apply to a food’s serving size (remember it can still have 0.5 gram or less of trans fat per serving.) Unfortunately, the fat now used to substitute the trans fat in shortening is high in saturated fat, so it’s still not a healthy choice.
- Almost all fast foods and fried foods are currently high in trans fat. Some restaurant chains now use a non-hydrogenated or trans-fat-free oil to fry their foods. But remember that a heart-friendly diet contains very little fried food. Look for foods that are labeled trans-fat-free or those that use liquid vegetable oils instead of hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list.
The list below summarizes ways to cut back your intake of trans fats.
|Instead of …||Choose …|
|Stick margarine||Trans-free tub or liquid margarine*|
|Fried foods||Baked, grilled or broiled foods|
|Crackers containing hydrogenated oils||Baked crackers or crackers containing non-hydrogenated (e.g. liquid) oils|
|Granola bars containing partially hydrogenated oils||Granola bars containing canola oil or non-hydrogenated oils|
|Chocolate or yogurt-covered pretzels||Plain pretzels|
|Energy bars dipped in frosting or chocolate||Plain, non-coated energy bars|
|Powdered creamers containing hydrogenated oils or flavored liquid coffee creamers||Non-fat half-and-half, skim milk, powdered or liquid creamers containing non-hydrogenated oils.|
*For a food to be labeled “trans-fat-free“, it must contain no more than 0.5 grams trans fat per serving. Margarine that claims to be trans fat-free should contain water or liquid vegetable oil as the first ingredient. These kinds of margarine may still contain some hydrogenated oil, but the amount per serving is negligible. However, portion control is key – once you exceed the serving size, the product is no longer free of trans fat.
Unsaturated fats, when eaten in moderation, are considered the healthiest fats because they improve cholesterol, are associated with lower inflammation (a risk factor for heart disease), and are associated with an overall lower risk of developing heart disease. Unsaturated fats are found primarily in plant-based foods; and are generally liquid at room temperature. There are two types of unsaturated fat: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, solid at refrigeration temperatures. Considered one of the healthiest fat sources in the diet, monounsaturated fats should make up the bulk of your daily fat intake. Monounsaturated fats are found in high concentrations in these foods:
- Olive oil.
- Canola (rapeseed) oil.
- Peanut oils.
- Most nuts (excluding walnuts), nut oils and nut butter (such as peanut butter).
Polyunsaturated fats are found primarily in:
- Corn oil.
- Soybean oil.
- Safflower oil.
- Flax oil and flax seeds.
- Sunflower oil.
Omega-3 is one type of polyunsaturated fat that has additional protective benefits against cardiovascular disease, including lowering triglycerides, protecting against irregular heartbeats, decreasing the risk of a heart attack and lowering blood pressure.
Good food sources of omega-3 are fish — especially cold-water fish like mackerel, salmon, herring, and sardines. Smaller amounts of this protective fat can also be found in flaxseeds, chia seeds (often sold as salvia), walnuts, soybean and canola oils.
To reap the protective benefits of omega-3 fat, incorporate fish into at least two meals per week and add plant-based sources of omega-3, such as ground flaxseeds and walnuts, into your daily eating plans.
Remember: Although unsaturated fats (mono- and polyunsaturated) are referred to as the “good” fats, you still have to monitor your intake of them. Excessive fat intake of any kind can result in weight gain.
Because cholesterol is made from the liver, it is only found in foods of animal origin (not in plant-based foods). While the focus is not to cut cholesterol in the diet, the Mediterranean diet focuses on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains and that includes fish, nuts and low-fat dairy and limits foods high in saturated fats and animal fat.
Here are a few tips to cut cholesterol in the diet:
- Limit egg yolks to one per day or less. Consider choosing more egg whites or egg substitutes instead.
- Remove skin from poultry before eating; trim fat from red meat before eating.
- Limit red meat and poultry portions to a 3-ounce portion (size of a deck of cards).
- Choose nonfat or low-fat cheeses. Limit total cheese intake to three meals weekly.
- Try soy-based cheese alternatives on sandwiches or in casseroles.
- Choose broth over cream-based soups.
- Limit high-fat dairy foods such as cream cheese, 4% cottage cheese or whole milk yogurt; choose nonfat or low-fat varieties.
According to the latest national guidelines, your total daily fat intake should range from 26% to 27% percent of your total daily calories and 5% to 6% saturated fat. How much fat you should eat depends upon your individual cardiovascular disease risk and lipid levels. Ask your physician or dietitian for more information.