Definition of Hydrogenated Oil

Hydrogenated oil has been highly processed.

It starts out as oils from vegetables that are considered to be healthy. Once it goes through numerous processes that are known as hydrogenation, the oil becomes solid.

A commonly eaten hydrogenated oil is margarine. The chemical process that changes oils into sticks that resemble butter was once thought to be healthier than eating animal fats such as real butter.

Hydrogenated fats create trans fats

When oils are hydrogenated, they are heated to high temperatures and are then placed under pressure. Their fatty acid structure is changed during the
processing. The result is unhealthy trans fats. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), trans fats should be eliminated from the diet. This is because trans fats are saturated fats that are not healthy.

Food manufacturers use trans fats in processed foods

Hydrogenated oils that contain trans fats have a semi-solid consistency similar to butter. This makes them ideal for using in baked goods and in other food products that are mass produced. Manufacturers once used these oils for their long shelf life because they do not become rancid quickly.

Foods that contain hydrogenated oils

Foods may contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, shortening and margarine are all these types of oils. Foods that contain these oils are cookies, packaged snack cakes, bakery products and pastries, chips, crackers and other snack foods. French fries and other fried foods that are cooked in these oils contain trans fats and are unhealthy because of this. Some frozen foods also contain hydrogenated oils.

Hydrogenated oils are linked to many health problems

Research studies have shown that the trans fats in hydrogenated oils cause heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and other problems. These fats are also
linked to bone problems, auto-immune diseases and fertility problems. Hydrogenated oils also raise LDL cholesterol levels and decrease HDL cholesterol, as well as increase triglycerides in the blood. This leads to inflammation that can cause heart attacks, heart disease, stroke and other diseases.

Natural trans fats are OK in moderation

Although it was believed for many years that animal fats were unhealthy, nutritionists now say that unprocessed, natural trans fats do not have negative effects on a person's health. Processed foods have unhealthy trans fats that should be avoided.

Food manufacturers often list trans fat content on their food packaging, but consumers need to be aware that small amounts of trans fats are not required to be listed. If a person consumes two or three servings of this food, he or she could be eating a substantial amount of trans fat without realizing it.

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