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Do you eat hydrogenated fat?

  • r

I started avoiding this stuff years ago because it's tasteless and leaves an icky waxy feeling in my mouth.

Now that we know it's 17 times worse for you than lard or butter ... why does anyone still eat the stuff? I don't get it.

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  1. j
    JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

    It's on the way out the door, thank goodness. It's extremely popular in large food service operations because it is much more shelf stable than liquid oil. A bonus is that it is much easier to plunk a huge brick of hydrogenated fat into a freshly cleaned deep fryer than it is to pour in gallons of oil.

    Link: http://thecosmicjester.blogspot.com

    1. People eat it because it's present in oh-so-many processed foods. I have now gotten to reading labels more carefully, and I try to avoid it too, where possible, but I've found that it's in a lot of things where I wouldn't expect it (can't thing of a single example now, of course). I just continue reading labels...

      2 Replies
      1. re: LisaM

        Until recently, the only way not to eat it was, basically, to never eat packaged food containing fat except meat things (and not always there.) It was certainly true of any form of baked goods including the vast majority of bakery products at any price point. (A couple of bakeries stuck to pure butter, and had to charge accordingly, but they are not the norm.) Imports don't get you off the hook, European stuff had as much as anything made in the US and in fact, from the labels I see, are a little slower in shifting over - guess they're labelling requirements are a little more recent and they haven't quite caught up.

        Unless he does all his own cooking and never eats snack/junk food, I suspect Robert was eating a lot more of it than he thinks, at least until the past year or so when companies started changing formulations in anticipation of the new labelling requirement.

        1. re: MikeG
          Robert Lauriston

          I don't eat much packaged food or any corporate junk food, the bakeries I frequent here in the People's Republic of Berkeley use only natural ingredients, and I always ask about the fry mix.

          Not that I'm a big health-food type. Throw some beef tallow in that fry mix, willya? And could I have some aioli on the side?

      2. Not that I use it that much, but easily because vegetable shortening still has very desirable properties for certain purposes. For example, an all-lard or all-butter pie crust is going to be quite different from a pie crust cut with some shortening. You cannot deep-fry in butter, and frying in shortening results in a different (and more desirable) texture in certain deep-fried foods.

        It is *very* difficult for most people to find non-hydrogenated lard. And lard (which I love) does have a distinct flavor that is not desirable in certain uses.

        Butter (which I dearly love) also has its limitations.

        Finally, not everyone is obsessed with finding evil in foods. Eating in moderation is a healthier perspective on things than obsesssing about evil ingredients. And the cyclical nature of evil food scares reinforces this, if anything.


        Let's use an example of Public Food Enemy Number One: Fast Food French Fries.

        Well, McDonalds used to partly prep their fries in tallow (the beef equivalent to lard). Then came the cholesterol scare, and they switched to hydrogenated vegetable oil. No cholesterol, but it did have transfats. And, because frying in shortening involves different temperatures and absorption rates than frying in tallow, the result was the the caloric load of the lower-cholesterol fries per uniform serving size was 1/3 HIGHER than the classic fried partly fried in tallow.

        Just like the low-fat craze exposed folks to eating lots of simple carbs whose digestion was not slowed down by fats: that begat the low-carb craze.

        It's just a cycle that most hounds prefer not to ride on.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Karl S

          But there's now shortening without hydrogenated fat, and even Crisco makes a version. Just FYI.

          1. re: Karl S
            Robert Lauriston

            I'm not against hydrogenated fat because it's evil, except in the sense that food that doesn't taste good is evil. On which basis that nasty-tasting rapeseed ("canola") oil is also condemned to the firey pit.

            I find that coconut oil works great for flaky pastry, and it actually tastes like food. Though to me an all-lard crust is superior in every way. Plus I have the fun of telling vegetarians they can't eat it.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Amen to the condemnation of nasty-tasting canola oil. I've smelled used motor oil that was more appetizing than canola.

          2. How do you know you aren't eating it? Do you know for absolute sure that whenever you eat out that no trans fats cross your lips?

            In a perfect world I would like to say I avoid this bad fat but unfortunately, I don't.

            5 Replies
            1. re: BlueHerons
              Robert Lauriston

              Trans fats cross my lips whenever I get my greasy paws on a nice piece of beef.

              I generally don't eat any unnatural ingredients, but that's probably easier here in Berkeley than in most parts of the USA.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                Morton the Mousse

                Most nutritionists and activists are concerned with trans fats from hydrogenated oils and not the small amounts of naturally occuring trans fats found in meat, dairy and some produce.

                I eat limited quantities of naturally occuring trans fats but I don't eat hydrogenated fat.

                Link: http://www.bantransfats.com/abouttran...

                1. re: Morton the Mousse
                  Robert Lauriston

                  Mmmm ... some activists. That's a relatively hip group. Others, for example the CSPI, are against all sorts of natural foods as well.

                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                  um, Beef doesn't have trans fat. what do you mean?

                  1. re: jjb75

                    Small amounts of trans fat occur naturally in beef and dairy products.

              2. m
                Miss Tenacity

                I eat very few processed or fast foods, thankfully, so I don't even have the option to consume trans fat most of the time.

                HOWEVER, I have an on-again/off-again addiction to my own personal "crack": General Foods International Coffees. Pure non-dairy creamer (which is at least 50% trans fat) combined with sugar and flavoring. Its often imitated but no store brand is like the real thing.

                Link: http://tenacity.net

                1. Here's a nice, succinct statement of the issue from the Harvard School of Public Health:

                  "The effect and magnitude of adverse health effects of trans fatty acids are in fact far stronger on average than those of food contaminants or pesticide residues, which have in some cases received considerable attention. ... Complete or near-complete avoidance of industrially produced trans fats may be necessary to avoid adverse health effects and would be prudent to minimize risks."


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Several years ago, as part of the long term study of nurses, the following was reported with respect to cardiovascular risk (that I remember): the increased risk associated with a 2% increase in consumption of trans fats was same as 5% increase in saturated fats (so 2.5x as potent in causing cardiovascular problems).

                    I don't eat anything that lists "partially hydrogenated ____ oil" in the ingredients. I know I'm missing out on some tasty things as a result of this policy, but like any boycott, it only works if you stick to it.

                    1. re: Jefferson

                      Four teaspoons of old-style trans-fat margarine a day resulting in a 50% increase in heart disease seems like more than a 2.5X difference.

                      Though maybe that reflect partially hydrogenated fats being 100% trans fat, while natural fats are always a mix of saturated and unsaturated. For example, only about 40% of the fat in lard is saturated.

                  2. I have avoided purchasing food with hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated oils for the past few years. It seems tedious at first, but within a month or two, I was aware of what foods to not even bother looking at the labels of. You just have to retrain yourself to grocery shop. I mainly shop at your usual mega-grocery store with some trips to Trader Joe's, and I have no problems trying to find non-hydrogenated substitutes for hydrogenated items I used to buy.

                    I am not so crazed that I will avoid it all together, I pay no mind to it when eating out or eating at someone's home. I just prefer to eat well at home, and that includes no hydrogenated oils, no chemical additives or preservatives and no "Lab Foods" (i.e. Splenda, other fake sugars).

                    Being that I hardly eat the hydrogenated oils, I notice foods that contain large amounts of it leave a film on my tongue. Quite disgusting.

                    1. I won't knowingly eat industrially produced trans fats, but given my food preferences that doesn't take much effort.

                      One loophole to be aware of in the U.S. nutritional labeling laws: manufacturers can round a half-gram of trans fat down to zero. Nutella, for example, contains partially-hydrogenated peanut oil and an independent lab test found that over 2% of its fat content is trans fat, but Ferrero can still claim zero grams.


                      1. I avoid it as much as I can. If you shop at whole foods,you don't have to read the lable. At TJ you have to check. I have taken foods that contain it back to the store. Eating out is different story.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mrsjoujou

                          That's interesting that Whole Foods bans hydrogenated fat from their shelves, first I'd heard of that.


                        2. Mississippi Market, a Twin Cities co-op announced in Dec 05/Jan 06 that it will stop stocking products that contain added transfat.


                          1. We never eat Fast Food and very little processed food.

                            I do use pure natural butter and olive oil for cooking.

                            I do admit that I use part Crisco when making a pie crust. You just can't get that great flaky crust without it. Butter gives it taste, Crisco, texture.

                            I also use Crisco when I fry Chicken.

                            We believe in everything in moderation, so I suppose using Crisco a few timnes a month is OK.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Fleur

                              Try using lard instead of Crisco. Pie crusts are amazing, the flavor and texture of a half-butter, half-crust are unbeatable. You have to search to find lard without hydrogenation, perhaps some Hispanic groceries carry it? I render my own.

                              I've heard Crisco without hydrogenation is pretty good too.

                              1. re: Fleur

                                Coconut oil is a good substitute for Crisco.

                                I'm skeptical of the trans-fat free Crisco, which uses fully hydrogenated cottonseed oil (yum yum). As about.com's nutrition expert says, "It *should* be healthier than regular shortening, but at one time we were sure that regular margarine was healthier than butter ..."

                              2. I'm sure I've eaten it in certain foods/ restaurants/ things I didn't prepare. But, when I'm buying sometihng, I'll check the ingredients and so always try to avoid it.


                                1. A shout-out to my SF homie, Robert Lauriston. Excellent subject for discussion. I stopped purchasing anything that listed partially hydrogenated oil a few years ago. But here's a question for you: are manufacturers slipping transfats or other arteriy clogging ingredients to us under seemingly innocuous names? For example, palm oil - I know harvesting it is bad for the environment, but is it a bad fat? It appears to be semi-solid at room temperature. I'm wondering if anyone else is aware of stealth "bad" fats in foods that are on the supermarket shelves with misleading labels claiming, for example, "low fat", "lite" - that sort of thing. (Don't even get me started on the lack of responsibility of government and restauranteurs innot giving diners important nutritional information up front.)

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: niki rothman

                                    Among commonly consumed ingredients, industrially produced trans fats are currently in a class by themselves as far as being bad for you. They're similar to red dye #2 or saccharin, synthetic ingredients that were presumed safe for human consumption but turned out not to be. Walter Willett, chair of Harvard's Department of Nutrition, has called for the FDA to remove partially hydrogenated fats from its Generally Regarded as Safe list, which would amount to a flat ban.

                                    Natural palm oil and coconut oil are definitely preferable to partially hydrogenated fats. They're chemically distinguishable from animal fat, and there's some evidence that they may be more heart-healthy. For example, Thais use lots of coconut oil and don't have a big problem with heart disease.

                                    Naturally occurring trans fats are an open question but as you can see from the Harvard School of Public Health's phrasing they don't lump them in with the industrially-produced kind.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Thais are small thin slight people who don't have much heart disease because they have that body type and have low calorie intake in general. I've definitely read that coconut oil is NOT healthy for we chubby, high stress Americans.

                                      1. re: niki rothman

                                        Yes, coconut oil was getting bad press for years, on the assumption that all saturated fats were equally bad. Some recent research suggests that that may have been as wrong as the notion that partially hydrogenated vegetable oil was healthier than butter or lard. It's an open question and most of the research has been funded by groups with a vested interest.


                                        The current consensus among nutritionists is that a healthy diet includes a significant percentage of its calories from healthy fats such as those in olive oil, nuts, fish, and avocados.

                                        If you want to be conservative, it's premature to put coconut oil on the list of healthy fats. On the other hand, if you want flaky pie crust, coconut oil is a better choice than partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening.


                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          I've read recently that animal based saturated fats like lard lose about 60 percent of their saturatedness when digested in the human gut. So they are not as harmful as previously thought. The only place tho' where lard is indispensible, to me, is in certain Latino foods, like refritos or tamales. My trade-mark pie crust is a shortbread one. So delicious, but not flaky - more a butter cookie texture.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            The most solid evidence for the relation between eating saturated fat and getting heart disease is based on large cohort studies, in which researchers gathered lots of information about people's habits (diet, exercise, etc.) and health (who got or died from heart disease, cancer, and so on).

                                            For example, the Women's Health Initiative found that women who ate 4 teaspoons of margarine daily were 50% more likely to get heart disease than those women who rarely ate it.

                                            No deeper understanding of what happens to fat in the body will change such statistical correlations.

                                          2. re: niki rothman

                                            I wouldn't worry about consuming too much coconut oil. There just isn't that much you would want to use it for. If you have to choose between shortening, coconut oil, and lard to make a pie crust, you would do better with the two natural choices than the one that's manufactured to be firm. Some people prefer butter to any of the above, but the high water content of butter makes it difficult to substitute effectively.

                                            If you are interested in doing more reading about coconut oil, there's plenty out there. As you may know, "saturated fat" is an umbrella term for a range of fatty acids. Different foods have different compositions, so lard and coconut oil and cocoa butter are all quite different. A lot of people believe that certain fatty acids in coconut oil, commonly called "medium chain triglycerides," are a great energy food because they are metabolized more like carbohydrates than other fatty acids. This could just be hype to sell MCT supplements, but maybe not.

                                            Certainly there is no reason to intentionally substitute solid fats where liquid fats will do. A current article compares meals made with coconut oil versus safflower oil and finds that the HDL "good cholesterol" that scavenges your arteries for stuff that needs to be cleaned up is less effective after the coconut fat meal than the safflower oil meal. (http://content.onlinejacc.org/cgi/con...) But ya can't make a pie crust with safflower oil!

                                            1. re: Jefferson

                                              That study's comparing natural coconut and safflower oils? The abstract doesn't say.

                                              1. re: Jefferson

                                                Robert (the direct reply link is missing this morning for some reason), I'm going to try to get a copy of the article and see exactly what they tried. The results may have been reported selectively. What I realized after posting is that the science has changed a lot in the 10 years since I paid attention. Back then, it was exciting to see HDL differentiated from total cholesterol. Now they are studying and comparing the levels of three different variants of HDL, which I suspect is what they are saying here (e.g., HDL-3 up, HDL-2 down, or vice versa). But the precise operation of all the different systems that affect atherosclerosis, which is the only reason anyone cares about HDL, still don't seem to be well understood. So this study might be irrelevant to real life. Perhaps we will find out within our lifetimes. Either way, I'll eat young coconut on a hot day whenever I can. I have no appetite for safflowers. ;-)

                                                1. re: Jefferson

                                                  If the study was done ten years ago, it might have been partially hydrogenated coconut oil!

                                                  What the coconut-exporting countries have seized on is the distinction between medium-chain and long-chain fatty acids (MCFA and LCFA).


                                                  (The "reply to the comment above" link disappears after you hit the fifth level of nesting.)

                                                  1. re: Jefferson

                                                    Maybe I should just cut to the chase with Jefferson and Robert, who seem to be very well informed.

                                                    OK boys, If I want to be most careful about the fats with which I cook, what should I do? I'm not a fanatic and taste means a lot to me. As you know, I cook a couple of meals a day from scratch. I bake too. Today I made banana bread with Smart Balance Margarine and Plugra unsalted butter 1:1. This margarine, according to my understanding is the most healthy of all margarines. It is made from palm, flax seed, canola and olive oils, lecithin, but also TBHQ and EDTA. It has a high smoke point and tastes delicious. When you add it to butter you can saute' at a higher temp without burning the butter. I had been using canola oil for frying but Ruth Laffler told me there were some health concerns about it breaking down at high temps, as in carcinogenic. Now I fry with grapeseed oil on the strength of her rec. Where the taste of evoo is helpful in cooking, I use it. Where the taste of butter really makes a difference - I do use it. My husband with the cholesterol controlled by medication and weight problem gets the Smartbeat in skimpy amounts
                                                    on vegetbles and toast. Often, where he won't notice, I will even cook eggs and such with olive oil. I, with no current health problems that might be improved with less butter, eat all the butter I want. Heh.

                                                    What are your opinions of the fats I'm using? Could I be doing better without sacrificing much flavor? Anything really harmful about my choices?


                                                    1. re: Jefferson

                                                      I use mostly olive oil in cooking but that's a taste preference. We have butter, duck fat, goose fat, bacon, and half a dozen nut oils in the fridge.

                                                      Outside of never eating industrial trans fats, the only things I do for health are excercise and avoid red meat and dairy a few days a week. If I drank less, I might be more concerned about a heart-healthy diet.

                                                      1. re: Jefferson

                                                        Hi Niki. I hardly cook, so I don't keep too much oil around. I mostly use "evoo" for everything (though not an expensive grade) with butter for where only butter will do.

                                                        Generally speaking, high-monounsatured oils like olive are the most "neutral" when they get into your body, so you don't have to worry so much about fat balance. If you use a lot of high-polyunsaturated oils, then you might want to think about adding fish, fish oil, flax, etc., to "balance" your fats a bit. (The omega-6/omega-3 thing.)

                                                        Incidentally, I noticed one of those smart margarines in my mother's fridge, hardly used in 6 months, while she has gone through 3 sticks of butter. Someone convince me she's wrong. ;-)

                                                2. When my parents were newly-weds (1942), my father informed my mother that he would never eat anything with margarine in it. This stuff never appeared in our kitchen, and I clearly remember my father grumbling in disbelief whenever some new study came out touting the benefits of margarine over butter. What a great b.s. meter my dad had!

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                    World War II did a lot both for and against margarine. Rationing meant more folks had to use margarine (which, after all, was invented by the French during their problems circa 1870, but was more popular in the US for meeting kosher requirements); some people got used to it and kept to it (my mother used Nucoa regularly and saved butter for baking and company), while others confirmed their hatred for it.

                                                    1. Nutella has hydrogenated oil in it, boo hoo.

                                                      It's the only thing I'll eat that has it. I just can't give it up...

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: katiepie

                                                        there is another company that makes the exact same thing with natural products. it's sold at the organic/natural market where i work. I think the brand is Rapunzel - a German company. I'm not sure if that's the right brand though. I'll double check the next time i'm at the market. it's more expensive but it tastes the same and is natural - possibly even Fair Trade.

                                                        1. re: jjb75

                                                          rapunzel is german? thought they were turkish maybe? or have some kind of company base in turkey? that's where thier spice reps emailed us anyway--

                                                        2. I just heard on the radio that NYC is banning trans fat use in all restaurants.

                                                          1. If I can avoid it no, occasionally I buy something perpared and I cannot control that but in home cooking I use lard butter adn cold pressed vegetable oils.

                                                            I was in check out today at a local grocery and was actually kind of horrified but the woman behind me and her grocery load. Beside the frozen veg she was buying and the skin milk everything she put on the belt was prepared. I was shuddering thinking not only of the trans fats but the amount of sugar she was feeding her family.

                                                            1. there is no reason to cook with trans fats yourself unless you are a vegan & need to bake. . . don't go to regular grocery stores much but the last time i did i saw a lady getting a whole cartful of stouffer's dinners thant was ALL she had, no t.p. even-- my jaw dropped and i was afraid she'd see me staring so i didn't see if they were all the same kind or not.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                Even if you're vegan, you don't need to use trans fats. I bake for people who are vegan and have never needed it.

                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                  no you don't need them. i agree with you-- i am just saying that vegans are the only ones who have a glimmer of an excuse for ever using trans fats

                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                    a company called Spectrum makes a shortening that is non-hydrogenated

                                                              2. does anyone know if fast food pizza has hydrog fat as well? tried looking at pizza hut's site but i couldn't find the ingredient breakdown. thx. i have been eating a lot of pizza at various functions.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                    Oh no--I'm usually really good about checking but it never occured to me that pizza dough would have it.:-( I should have realized, though.

                                                                    I think they should have a big red T on any product that has it (any amount, not the rounded down to zero amount that they're allowed to claim). I tried explaining to my mom how to find it on the label but she can't read all the fine print.

                                                                1. i read labels religiously and if i see partially hydrogenated oils i put the product back. My recent problem has been giving up Reese's peanut butter cups. That is, until I discovered Trader Joe's PBC. They're even better than the reeses!! Except that you can only get them in big packages and when i got the mini ones i ate the whole thing in 2 days.

                                                                  I try to check, but I don't ask at bakeries etc. Of course, I also hardly ever get stuff from bakeries.

                                                                  At home I use EarthBalance margarine, similar to smart balance. i find it cooks and bakes well and tastes great! They have a shortening I would try if I was going to make a pie crust anytime soon.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: annimal

                                                                    Paul Newman has good pb cups, too.

                                                                    1. re: annimal

                                                                      Reese's peanut butter cups don't contain hydrogenated oils.

                                                                      Here are the ingredients:

                                                                      Milk Chocolate , Sugar , Cocoa Butter , Chocolate , Nonfat Milk , Milk Fat , Lactose , Soy Lecithin Emulsifier , PGPR Emulsifier , Peanuts , Sugar , Dextrose , Salt , TBHQ Preservative

                                                                      Not bad as far as mass-produced candy goes.

                                                                    2. Not if I can avoid it and would not have it in my home. We use butter, veg oils and farm produced lard.

                                                                      1. I haven't heard any mention cottonsed oil which is not considered a healthy oil but frequently shows up in all kinds of foods--the chili paste/sauce on the table at Chinese restaurants and potato chips (Lays), for example. I very aware of and concerned about trans fats and I avoid them--but the chili paste is something I do consume when eating Chinese food. Is this ill advised?

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: leoj

                                                                          The main health concern about cottonseed oil is the heavy use of pesticides on cotton crops.

                                                                          Other than that it's perfectly healthy in reasonable quantities and like any natural vegetable oil lower in saturated fat than lard or butter. You wouldn't want to get most of your fat calories from it as it's relatively low in monounsaturated fat compared with e.g. olive oil.