Food With Hydrogenated Oils

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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.

Food With Hydrogenated Oils

  1. 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.
  2. Margarine
    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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Trans-Fat-Free Alternatives

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

5 WAYS TO AVOID HYDROGENATED OIL

What is hydrogenated oil?

Food companies began using hydrogenated oil to help increase shelf life and save costs. Hydrogenation is a process in which a liquid unsaturated fat is turned into a solid fat by adding hydrogen. During this manufactured partially hydrogenated processing, a type of fat called trans fat is made.

While small amounts of trans fats are found naturally in some foods, most trans fats in the diet come from these processed hydrogenated fats.

Partially hydrogenated oils can affect heart health because they increase “bad” (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) cholesterol and lower “good” (high-density lipoprotein, or HDL) cholesterol. On the other hand, a fully hydrogenated oil contains very little trans fat, mostly saturated fat, and doesn’t carry the same health risks as trans fat.

Still, food manufacturers continue to use partially hydrogenated oils to:

  • save money
  • extend shelf life
  • add texture
  • increase stability

Partially hydrogenated oil isn’t always easy to spot, but there are ways to spot it and avoid it.

1. Know the common culprits

Partially hydrogenated oils are most commonly found in foods that also have saturated fat, such as:

  • margarine
  • vegetable shortening
  • packaged snacks
  • baked foods, especially premade versions
  • ready-to-use dough
  • fried foods

2. Read food labels carefully

Since partially hydrogenated oil contains trans fats, it’s best to avoid any food product that contains partially hydrogenated oil.

Still, a product labeled as free from trans fats doesn’t mean it is. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a company can label a food free of trans fats if the actual content is 0.5 grams per serving or less. This isn’t the same as 0 grams.

Some food labels claim no trans fats have been added, but partially hydrogenated oil may still be listed as one of the ingredients. So it’s important to read both the food label and the ingredients list. Here’s how to read food labels without being tricked.

3. Use vegetable oils for cooking

Margarine and shortening are easy to cook with, but they contain partially hydrogenated oils. Opt for heart-healthy vegetable or plant oils, such as safflower, olive, or avocado oil instead.

One study from 2011 showed safflower oil may improve blood glucose levels and lipids and decrease inflammation. Olive oil and avocado oil have also been shown to be heart-healthy oils.

Consider baking and broiling your foods instead of frying them to save on fat and calories.


4. Limit packaged foods
Partially hydrogenated oils go hand in hand with food preservation, so hydrogenated fat often ends up in packaged foods. Decrease your dependence on packaged foods. Start by eliminating one food group at a time.

For example, cook your own rice or potatoes from scratch instead of relying on seasoned, boxed versions.

5. Make over your snacks

Snacks can be an important part of a balanced diet. They can sustain you until the next meal, keep you from being overly hungry, and prevent drops in blood sugar. The problem is that many convenient snacks are made with partially hydrogenated oil.

Opt for more satiating snacks that are naturally free of trans fats, including:

  • mixed nuts
  • carrot sticks
  • apple slices
  • bananas
  • plain yogurt

Remember to check the labels of any packaged goods you might eat with these snacks, such as hummus, peanut butter, and yogurt.

For great snacking, check out these high-protein snacks, snacks your kids will love, snacks to help you lose weight, and diabetes-friendly snacks.

Lipids and the Food Industry

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you read ingredients such as “partially hydrogenated oil” and “hydrogenated oil” on a food label? Do you think of heart disease, heart health, or atherosclerosis? Most people probably do not. As we uncover what hydrogenation is and why manufacturers use it, you will be better equipped to adhere to healthier dietary choices and promote your heart health.

Hydrogenation: The Good Gone Bad?

Food manufacturers are aware that fatty acids are susceptible to attack by oxygen molecules because their points of unsaturation render them vulnerable in this regard. When oxygen molecules attack these points of unsaturation the modified fatty acid becomes oxidized. The oxidation of fatty acids makes the oil rancid and gives the food prepared with it an unappetizing taste. Because oils can undergo oxidation when stored in open containers, they must be stored in airtight containers and possibly be refrigerated to minimize damage from oxidation. Hydrogenation poses a solution that food manufacturers prefer.

When lipids are subjected to hydrogenation, the molecular structure of the fat is altered. Hydrogenation is the process of adding hydrogen to unsaturated fatty-acid chains, so that the hydrogen atoms are connected to the points of saturation and results in a more saturated fatty acid. Liquid oils that once contained more unsaturated fatty acids become semisolid or solid (upon complete hydrogenation) and behave like saturated fats. Oils initially contain polyunsaturated fatty acids. When the process of hydrogenation is not complete, for example, not all carbon double bonds have been saturated the end result is a partially hydrogenated oil. The resulting oil is not fully solid. Total hydrogenation makes the oil very hard and virtually unusable. Some newer products are now using fully hydrogenated oil combined with nonhydrogenated vegetable oils to create a usable fat.

Manufacturers favor hydrogenation as a way to prevent oxidation of oils and ensure longer shelf life. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are used in the fast food and processed food industries because they impart the desired texture and crispness to baked and fried foods. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are more resistant to breakdown from extremely hot cooking temperatures. Because hydrogenated oils have a high smoking point they are very well suited for frying. In addition, processed vegetable oils are cheaper than fats obtained from animal sources, making them a popular choice for the food industry.

Trans fatty acids occur in small amounts in nature, mostly in dairy products. However, the trans fats that are used by the food industry are produced from the hydrogenation process. Trans fats are a result of the partial hydrogenation of unsaturated fatty acids, which cause them to have a trans configuration, rather than the naturally occurring cis configuration.

Health Implications of Trans Fats

No trans fats! Zero trans fats! We see these advertisements on a regular basis. So widespread is the concern over the issue that restaurants, food manufacturers, and even fast-food establishments proudly tout either the absence or the reduction of these fats within their products. Amid the growing awareness that trans fats may not be good for you, let’s get right to the heart of the matter. Why are trans fats so bad?

Processing naturally occurring fats to modify their texture from liquid to semisolid and solid forms results in the development of trans fats, which have been linked to an increased risk for heart disease. Trans fats are used in many processed foods such as cookies, cakes, chips, doughnuts, and snack foods to give them their crispy texture and increased shelf life. However, because trans fats can behave like saturated fats, the body processes them as if they were saturated fats. Consuming large amounts of trans fats has been associated with tissue inflammation throughout the body, insulin resistance in some people, weight gain, and digestive troubles. In addition, the hydrogenation process robs the person of the benefits of consuming the original oil because hydrogenation destroys omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The AHA states that, like saturated fats, trans fats raise LDL “bad cholesterol,” but unlike saturated fats, trans fats lower HDL “good cholesterol.” The AHA advises limiting trans-fat consumption to less than 1 percent.

How can you benefit from this information? When selecting your foods, steer clear of anything that says “hydrogenated,” “fractionally hydrogenated,” or “partially hydrogenated,” and read food labels in the following categories carefully:

  • cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, and breads
  • stick margarines and vegetable shortening
  • premixed cake mixes, pancake mixes, and drink mixes
  • fried foods and hard taco shells
  • snack foods (such as chips), candy, and frozen dinners

Choose brands that don’t use trans fats and that are low in saturated fats.

Dietary-Fat Substitutes

In response to the rising awareness and concern over the consumption of trans fat, various fat replacers have been developed. Fat substitutes aim to mimic the richness, taste, and smooth feel of fat without the same caloric content as fat. The carbohydrate-based replacers tend to bind water and thus dilute calories. Fat substitutes can also be made from proteins (for example, egg whites and milk whey). However, these are not very stable and are affected by changes in temperature, hence their usefulness is somewhat limited.

Tools for Change

One classic cinnamon roll can have 5 grams of trans fat, which is quite high for a single snack. Many packaged foods often have their nutrient contents listed for a very small serving size—much smaller than what people normally consume—which can easily lead you to eat many “servings.” Labeling laws allow foods containing trans fat to be labeled “trans-fat free” if there are fewer than 0.5 grams per serving. This makes it possible to eat too much trans fat when you think you’re not eating any at all because it is labeled trans-fat free.

Always review the label for trans fat per serving. Check the ingredient list, especially the first three to four ingredients, for telltale signs of hydrogenated fat such as partially or fractionated hydrogenated oil. The higher up the words “partially hydrogenated oil” are on the list of ingredients, the more trans fat the product contains.

Measure out one serving and eat one serving only. An even better choice would be to eat a fruit or vegetable. There are no trans fats and the serving size is more reasonable for similar calories. Fruits and vegetables are packed with water, fiber, and many vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. At restaurants be aware that phrases such as “cooked in vegetable oil” might mean hydrogenated vegetable oil, and therefore trans fat.

Margarines now nutritionally better than butter after hydrogenated oil ban

Student Cecily Weber found that margarine and butter-blend products now contain substantially less saturated fat and cholesterol compared to butter, and contain no man-made trans fat. 

In the U.S. the year-end holidays are here, which not only makes it the season of joy and celebration, but also of butter as many Americans make batches of cookies and creamy comfort foods to celebrate. In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned partially hydrogenated oils from food products such as margarines in order to reduce the amount of heart-damaging trans fats people consume. A new study from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health recently compared the nutrition composition of margarine products to butter to see which is now the healthier choice in terms of cardiovascular health.

Cecily Weber in a yellow-and-white-striped shirt and black vest smiling in front of a brick wall.
Study lead author and student Cecily Weber.

“What we found is that in the U.S. marketplace today, margarines are now a better option than butter for your health,” said study lead author and public health nutrition student Cecily Weber. “In the past there was a lot of debate about which product was better for you, but now that trans fats have been removed from margarines, they’re the best  choice in terms of heart health.”

The study, led by Weber and co-authored by Professor Lisa Harnack, is the first to comprehensively look at margarine versus butter since the FDA ban went into effect. The details of the study were recently published in the journal “Public Health Nutrition.”

Weber examined the fatty acid profiles and relevant vitamin and mineral content of 83 margarine/margarine-like and butter-blend products available in the U.S. marketplace in 2020 and compared them to butter. Weber collected the information using the Food and Nutrient Database from the University of Minnesota Nutrition Coordinating Center (NCC), which is a database detailing the nutritional content of thousands of foods. Harnack is the director of the NCC.

The study found:

  • Following the ban, margarine and butter-blend products contain substantially less saturated fat and cholesterol in comparison to butter, and contain no man-made trans fat. 
  • Softer tub and squeeze-tube margarine products were found to contain less saturated fat than stick margarines, making them the better nutritional choice among margarine products.

“The findings are particularly important for registered dietitians and other nutrition-related health professionals so that they can update their advice and offer people the best options in order to promote heart health,” said Weber.

Weber says the news is also important for consumers so that they know it’s nutritionally wisest to choose tub and squeeze-tube margarines in particular over butter when shopping for food. Tub and squeeze-tube margarines typically contain the least amount of saturated fats, which makes them softer than stick products at room temperature. Weber also added that food manufacturers are to be commended for reformulating their products to eliminate trans fats and maintain their taste and quality while keeping their saturated fat content low.

“It’s a public health success story,” said Weber. “Consumers no longer have to worry about reading product nutritional labels to see if they contain hydrogenated oils and trans fats. They can just know that they no longer do.”

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