Hydrogenated vegetable shortening is a vegetable oil that has been converted to solid form by a processed called hydrogenation. Hydrogenated vegetable shortening was first introduced to the public in 1911. Hydrogenated vegetable shortening is made from many different oils such as soybean, cottonseed and corn oil.
How Does Hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening Work?
Shortening refers to the process of introducing fat to interfere with the formation of gluten in the dough. The process is important, particularly in pie crust, because gluten creates a gummy or chewy texture. When hydrogenated vegetable shortening is worked into dry flour, it creates a layer of insulation between gluten molecules and prevents them from enjoining once the liquid is introduced.
Hydrogenated vegetable shortening is used in baked goods to keep them soft after baking. Hydrogenated vegetable shortening does not separate like butter does; it remains intact and reverts to a semi-solid form after cooling down. Cookies and other baked goods made with shortening are softer, while those made with butter have a crispier texture.
How Is Hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening Used?
To incorporate shortening into a recipe, a fat solid is “cut” into a dry mixture of flour through using a pastry cutter, food processor, two knives or a person’s hands. The fat is repeatedly cut into smaller and smaller pieces until it becomes entirely mixed in with the flour. Pea sized pieces of fat will create a flaky baked product which is common in a pie crust or croissant recipe.
Shortening is most often used for deep frying because it has a higher smoking point and is more stable than butter or vegetable oil. A high smoking point allows foods to be cooked fast at a higher temperature without burning the oil. Because shortening has a low moisture level it results in reduced splattering, increases fat stability and delays rancidity, which means it can be used many times without spoiling.
What Is Trans-Fat?
Trans-fat is made when vegetable oil goes through hydrogenation, which is an industrial process that hardens liquid oil into fats such as margarine and vegetable shortening. Trans-fats lower HDL (good) cholesterol levels and raises LDL cholesterol. The main sources of trans-fat in a person’s diet are cookies, deep fried foods, pastries, biscuits, cake and other products that contain vegetable shortening and hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Limit Overall Trans Fats In Your Diet
As part of a healthy diet, it is important to limit the amount of trans-fats consumed. Remember, having too much fat in the diet is not healthy and limiting the amount of saturated and trans-fats in the diet is beneficial. At home, a person can use less oil when cooking, adopt healthier cooking methods, choose lower fat products and consume fish and some vegan meals to cut down on bad fats in the diet.
Limiting Trans Fats When Eating Out
When eating out, limiting trans-fat in the diet can be quite challenging. Going out to eat is something we all enjoy, but limiting the trans-fat when dining out can be difficult. You can replace deep fried foods with baked menu items. Avoid consuming high-fat bakery items and for something sweet, fruit makes a great alternative. Other ways of making eating out healthier are to remove the skin from fried meat or poultry and asking for less oil or gravy on a dish.
It’s Important To Eat A Diet Low In Hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening?
For some people a diet high in hydrogenated vegetable shortening can raise blood cholesterol levels. To maintain lower blood cholesterol levels, a person should consume no more than 300 mgs of cholesterol per day. By maintaining a diet low in trans-fats, a person can remain healthy and avoid the problems that come from unhealthy eating habits.