Replacements for Partially Hydrogenated Oils

Now that partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) have been removed from many processed foods, which substitutes are acceptable and which should be avoided? Most of the foods previously made with trans fats now use saturated fats from palm, palm kernel and coconut oils. As far as I know, these tropical oils have not been shown to cause heart attacks or other health issues in any large population studies. However, they raise levels of the bad LDL cholesterol, while Canola oil (high in monounsaturated fat) and soybean oil (high in polyunsaturated fat) do not (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2006). I believe that they are more healtful than saturated fats from animal sources, and certainly better than the trans fats they have replaced.

Fats in nature are always a combination of saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. They are classified by their dominant fat. For example, most of the fat in meat and tropical oils is saturated, while the fats in most vegetables are primarily polyunsaturated. Here are my recommendations:

• Look for foods made with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated vegetable oils. Many food manufacturers now use trans fat-free oil from sunflower, soy, and cottonseed oils. (Wendy's switched to non-hydrogenated corn and soy oil in 2006. McDonald's now uses trans-fat free canola and soybean oils).
• Olive oil is high in healthful monounsaturated fats and is an excellent choice for salad dressings and low-temperature stir-frying.
• Saturated fats from plants (tropical oils) appear to be more healthful than animal saturated fats, as far as we know today.
• Avoid prepared foods that contain ANY partially hydrogenated or trans fats; always read the list of ingredients.
• Limit or avoid foods prepared with saturated animal fats such as lard and butter.
• French fries should be freshly sliced and cooked with a vegetable oil such as canola. (Many frozen french fries still contain partially hydrogenated oils).
• Make your own snacks using vegetable, nut or seed oils.

Always read the list of ingredients to make sure there are NO partially hydrogenated oils. Many products labeled "zero trans fats" contain up to a half gram of trans fats per serving because the FDA allows them to do this. Partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol. Just five grams of trans fat a day can increase risk of heart disease by 25 percent. They are also associated with increased risk for breast (American Journal of Epidemiology, November 2008) and prostate cancers (Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, January 2008).

Overall, snack foods and prepared foods should be a very small portion of your diet. Most of the food you eat should be vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and other seeds.

More on tropical oils
More on trans fats
Best diet


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