Foodfacts.com mission is to educate consumers on making more educated and well-thought food choices. We’ve gotten many questions in the past regarding the controversy with trans-fat. We’re going to explain the background on trans-fats with tips on how to avoid them too!
First, you have to be able to recognize trans-fat ingredients on a food label, because even though a product may lists 0g trans-fat, this may not be the case. Foods with less than 0.5g of trans fats per serving are considered by the government to be trans-fat free. However, if you eat peanut butter for instance, which normally contains a small amount of trans fat to reduce separation; chances are many won’t be eating just 1 serving. Therefore, you’ll be consuming more than just 0.5g, and this is not healthy.
Partially Hydrogenated vs. Fully Hydrogenated
Fast food burgers, popcorn, pretzels, some sodas, breakfast cereals, and thousands of other products contain one common ingredient, partially hydrogenated oil. At first sight some may think, “well it’s only partially hydrogenated, so it can’t be that bad.” However partially hydrogenated oils are far worse than fully hydrogenated oils, because they are the culprits which contain trans-fatty acids.
When hydrogen is added to an oil (whether it be vegetable, canola, soy, etc.) the process is referred to as hydrogenation. This process changes the physical properties of the fat, often turning the product into a more semi-solid composition, such as margarine. This increases the melting point in frying foods, extends shelf-life, and produces a more appealing texture in baked goods.
Fully hydrogenated oils have little to no remaining trans fat after the hydrogenation process. The consistency of this fat is more solid, even at room temperature. It’s physical properties make it too difficult for some to use during baking and frying methods, so it may be hard to find unlike partially hydrogenated fats. Also, this fully hydrogenated oil contains more saturated fat, often stearic acid which is normally converted in the body to oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat. This makes fully hydrogenated oils less harmful than that of partially hydrogenated.
And just to be extra clear, if a label reads “hydrogenated oil,” this doesn’t it’s necessarily free of trans-fat. These fats are used interchangeable, so make good decisions and be careful to scan ingredient lists for these fats!