We know to avoid foods with unhealthy oils. But how does hydrogenation change a healthy oil into an unhealthy oil?

Scientists accept the fact that saturated fats increase LDL cholesterol, the bad kind of cholesterol, in the blood. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in vegetable oils reduce LDL in the blood. When a person has high levels of LDL cholesterol, their chances of having a heart attack or of developing coronary heart disease increase.

Surprise Findings

In the 1950s, scientists created margarine as a spread that could be used at the table and in baking and cooking. It was believed that margarine was a
healthier option than butter or other animal fats. Now, scientists have found that the partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated fats in some margarines are worse for the body than butter or lard. The most dangerous fats are called trans fats.

Why Hydrogenate?

There are two main reasons why manufacturers have used hydrogenated fats when making cookies, cakes, and other baked goods. One of these reasons is that hydrogenated fat extends the shelf life of baked products. Cakes or brownies that are baked at home with butter can get moldy and need to be thrown away in a week or so. Packaged cakes and baked goods, on the other hand, often have a shelf life of three, four, or more weeks.

There is another reason why manufacturers take healthy oil and hydrogenate it: to make the liquid oil into a solid. Solid oil can be used as butter when baking or cooking. If you look at the labels of pre-made frozen pies, pie shells, and other treats, you will see that they often contain trans fats. These unhealthy fats clog arteries and should be avoided.

Labels Are Misleading

Many people are totally confused when a bag of snacks says “No Trans Fat,” yet lists “0.5g of trans fats per serving” in its ingredients. This labeling is the way that manufacturers get around the public’s fear of eating trans fats. The serving size is so tiny that most people eat two, three or more servings. In the meantime, they are consuming their daily total or even more of the trans fats that they should eat each day.

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