Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated quite often appear on ingredient labels of many packaged foods. Hydrogenation is the chemical process of adding hydrogen bonds to make a fat more solid at room temperature. Fully hydrogenated fat is saturated fat, and partially hydrogenated fat is known as trans fats. According to the American Heart Association, trans fats raise bad cholesterol levels and lower good cholesterol levels; consumption of trans fat increases the risk for developing heart disease and stroke. Trans fat is also associated with a higher chance of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Trans fats are used by many food manufacturers because they are inexpensive, easy to use and have a long shelf life. If you have a sweet tooth, then beware of partially hydrogenated fats. Desserts such as cookies, candy, cakes, doughnuts, brownies, muffins, croissants, pies, pastries and other bakery items most often will have partially hydrogenated oils. These oils help desserts be moist, fluffy and savory.
Convenience foods such as frozen meals and prepared ready-to-eat foods also have partially hydrogenated oils. Examples include frozen packaged foods such as french fries, pot pies, pizza, dinners, breaded foods and breaded vegetables. Other prepared foods with partially hydrogenated oils are packaged tortillas, biscuits, rolls and specialty breads. Foods with added fat of any type likely will have partially hydrogenated oils.
People often reach for snacks, especially handy ones that taste good. Unfortunately, many contain partially hydrogenated oils. They include crackers, some varieties of chips, granola bars, breakfast bars, energy bars and fruit snacks. Others include microwave popcorn, some varieties of tortilla chips, packaged snack cakes and fruit pies.
Fats such as margarine, stick margarine, shortening, chip dips and cake frosting have partially hydrogenated oils. Shortening itself often is a part of ingredients with foods that have added fat. The best way to identify hydrogenated fats is to check ingredient labels for any type of hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fat, and to check the Nutrition Facts panel on packaged foods for trans fat. Be cautious about foods that state, “0 grams trans fat,” as they may still contain up to 1/2 g of trans fat, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The American Heart Association recommends limiting trans fat consumption to under 2 g per day if consuming 2,000 calories a day, or to less than 1 percent of total daily calories.
About this Author
Paragi Mehta, RD is a Registered Dietitian and creator of healthfulfilling.com, a nutrition, health and wellness site. She is also a freelance writer, and has been published in print magazines in the Dallas area. She is a graduate of Kansas State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in dietetics, and has practiced in areas of acute care, public health, consulting and education.