A Moment of Science

Hydrogenated Oil

Most of us know that there a good fats and bad fats. But how do we tell the difference?

A table covered with delicious baked goods and cakes

Photo: Scorpions and Centaurs

"Hydrogenation" is the process that changes liquid vegetable oils into more solid forms.

The word “hydrogenation” refers to the process that changes liquid vegetable oils into more solid forms, forms that can be easily spread with a knife. In addition, the process of hydrogenation increases the shelf-life of the oil.

An example of hydrogenated oil in its purest form is vegetable shortening, but margarine contains a very high percentage of hydrogenated oil as well. Hydrogenated oils are also found in products like breads, donuts, peanut butter, frozen meals, potato chips, and many fast foods.

Good And Bad Fat

It’s almost common knowledge these days that there is good fat and bad fat. Unsaturated or polyunsaturated fat is considered good fat, while saturated fat is considered bad for us.

To make things a little more complicated, though, cholesterol comes in both a good and bad form as well. The reason saturated fat is considered bad is because it raises our bodies’ levels of the bad cholesterol, the kind that when accumulated, leads to heart disease.

Moderation Is Key

The problem with hydrogenated oil is twofold. One, hydrogenated oil contains a lot of saturated fat. In addition though, it also contains what are called trans fatty acids. Like saturated fat, they raise our levels of the bad cholesterol, but to make matters worse, they can also reduce our levels of the good cholesterol.

What makes the good cholesterol good is that it actually can protect our hearts from heart disease. This is not to say that hydrogenated oil is all bad. As with almost anything, the key is moderation.

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