Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hydrogenated Oil / Saturated Fats -- Shopping for Healthier Eating

Sometimes I stop and think about all the shortening I've eaten in my lifetime and I shudder. I shouldn't look backwards, though. Knowledge has given me an insight to the dangers of hydrogenated oil and I'm excited to know what I know now. You can be too!

Saturated Fat and Hydrogenated Oils are in much of the food we buy -- maybe even in the food we prepare. It's good to learn what they are, the dangers they bring to the body, and how to avoid them completely. Yes, it's possible to avoid them completely!

Let's start with Saturated Fat. (I know in English class those words wouldn't really get to be capitalized, but for the sake of this post and standing out amidst other words, I'm letting it slide). There are healthy Saturated Fats and unhealthy Saturated Fats. Saturated fats from animals are not healthy for your body. These fats are hard (or solid) at room temperature or (or obviously in the cold) -- usually liquid when hot. It's the marbleized fat in meat that you can see (and often can't see) -- is also found in eggs and dairy products. The firmer the dairy product (cheese, butter, cream) the more saturated fat. Healthy saturated fats are found in plant foods like coconuts and raw cacao.

Hydrogenated Oil (or even Partially Hydrogenated Oil) is oil that has been tampered with to be able to have a longer shelf life than oil has in its liquid state. Hydrogenation is the process of heating an oil and passing hydrogen bubbles through it. Think of fluffy shortening or tubs of margarine. Fully hydrogenated oil becomes a solid (a fat), but if the hydrogenation process is stopped part way, the oil is Partially Hydrogenated and has a consistency like butter that's been out of the refrigerator for awhile. These are both trans-fats.

You can look at other websites to see the dangers of Hydrogenated Oil. Just know that they cause a host of serious problems for your body. You can grow up eating them, thinking "This is fine for my body" like someone can smoke for years without any problems. However, the problems will be transpiring within your body and you may not know until it's too late. Over the past decade, however, I think the problems have become more evident, with obesity and heart disease on the rise -- at lower and lower ages.

I'll be back to give you shopping tips on how to avoid these. My kids are needing me now. TTFN!

I'm back! Sorry it took so long. Before I get to the shopping tips, here's a good article on these harmful fats that fill in some of the gaps I may have left open. for the shopping tips.

First of all, read the labels until you get familiar with what's in your food. Look for the word "hydrogenated" (whether partially or fully) and if you see it, don't buy it. Many items that don't have labels (donuts, fast food, animal products) have harmful fats too. If you want to keep animal products in your diet, treat them like the condiment on the side of plate instead of the main dish (and only have them once a week or better yet, once a month -- you'll be surprised at how well you can live without them).

Here are some foods that commonly are made with hydrogenated fat:

biscuits / breads
peanut butter
frozen meals
fried foods
processed dairy products.

When I shop for items that normally have hydrogenated fats, I buy them from the health food store (or health food section of the grocery store) because they will tell you right on the box "No hydrogenated fats." Many kinds of breads have hydrogenated fat too. Check the label. So many people are concerned with this now that the food companies are proud to make their "No hydrogenated" claims. Some companies are actually changing how they make their food items. I've recently found this true for high fructose corn syrup in bread (yay!)

Other companies are doing just the opposite. They are hiding their hydrogenated information from you by stating things like "cooked with vegetable oil" when that vegetable oil can be hydrogenated. Some break up the ingredient list and describe the filling or some other component in such detail that by the time you get to the end of the list and see "hydrogenated" you may not think there is very much. Not true. Or they say "0% Trans Fat" which can just mean it has less than 0.5 g. per serving -- not completely void of it. Also, hydrogenated oils are not considered trans-fats, so 0% trans-fat is just pertaining to the partially hydrogenated oil, not the fully hydrogenated oil. So be careful with the companies that are trying to make you think their foods have healthier fats, but they really don't. I find that if I buy organic food, for the most part, they're using healthier sugars and fats. (Not always, but 90+% of the time they do).

Start buying peanut butter that requires refrigeration. You may not like stirring it at first, but the fact that it separates means that they didn't put any hydrogenated fat in it to keep it firm (as well as preservatives to make it okay to leave in the cupboard). Of the health food store brands, my favorite is Marantha, but Costco sells an organic peanut butter now that is creamier and doesn't require much stirring after the very first time. My kids seem to like this one best.

While it's always better just to eat whole foods than to buy processed food, if you are going to buy processed, make it a healthier version. For example, instead of buying Wheat Thins, buy Nature's Path Crispy Wheats. They really do taste the same (if not better). Classic Rounds are the same as Ritz Crackers. I don't buy these often, but my kids love it when I do. Shop the sales. I've found with health food that their specials usually last all month instead of just for a week.

Alternatives to animal milk (almond milk is my favorite) are healthier for you. I still wouldn't drink almond, soy or rice milk as often as I used to drink cow's milk. I use it mainly for cooking or for an occasional bowl of Kashi cereal. It's a processed food and I try to keep those to a minimum. But if you're trying to change one habit at a time, just take your usual versions of fat intake and change it up to save your body the health problems that result from the intake of the bad fats.

Another great idea is to make more of your food in your own kitchen instead of trusting the food companies to do it for you. You can control not only the kind of fat, but also the amount. I've substituted oil in many recipes for butter or shortening and often cut the amount by 1/2 or 1/3 by adding in another form of moisture (fruit).

Stop buying margarine or butter. Butter is the lesser of the evils imho, but butter has saturated fat (or should I say "IS" saturated fat) and margarine is hydrogenated -- both not good for your body. Smart Balance and a few others are made w/o hydrogenated fat, but I think the health food store brands are much better for you -- such as Earth Balance or Canoleo. They don't have all the preservatives that Smart Balance has. Better yet (there's always a better yet, huh? :)), stop using butter altogether or at least cut back on it. No matter how you buy it, it's not a whole food and has no macro-nutritional value. It's much better to get your fats from nuts, seeds, and grains.

That will be my final note. If you can cut out all these unnecessary fats and just have a handful of nuts or add seeds to a salad or something instead, you'll be even better off. There are so many healthy ways to meet your fat needs. Raw cashews are super yummy if you've never tried them. You'll never miss all that other stuff if you have a stash of those nearby.

1 comment:

  1. Good advice, Renee. Can't wait for the follow-up to this.