Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hydrogenated Oils

What happens when you eat hydrogenated oils?
Just how bad is this ingredient for your health? Consider this list of detrimental health effects caused by hydrogenated oils, published in this report:
  • Directly promotes heart disease
  • Promotes cancers: breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer
  • Results in low birth weight infants
  • Raises LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Raises blood sugar levels and promotes weight gain
  • Interferes with the absorption of essential fatty acids and DHA
  • Impairs brain function and damages brain cells
  • Accelerates tumor growth
  • Accelerates the progress of type-2 diabetes
  • Raises serum cholesterol
  • Impairs immune system function
  • Promotes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Impairs development of the brains of fetuses
  • Causes gallbladder disease
  • Causes liver disease
  • Causes 30,000 deaths per year in the United States alone
  • Clogs blood, makes blood cells stick together
  • Blocks the body's creation of natural pain-reducing hormones (eicosanoids)
  • Causes the creation of free radicals that promote inflammation
  • Creates nutritional deficiencies of healthy oils and essential fatty acids (EFAs)
  • Promotes cystic fibrosis
  • Lowers essential fatty acids in the breast milk of nursing mothers
  • Clogs artery walls and promotes atherosclerosis
  • Cause gum disease and rotted teeth
  • Lowers tissue oxygen intake
  • Causes infertility
  • Directly damages blood vessels
  • Causes high blood pressure
  • Weaken cell walls and compromises cellular structure
  • Causes dandruff and acne
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Dozens of everyday food products contain appreciable levels of hydrogenated fats.
Unfortunately, in these categories of ubiquitous products, nearly every brand, flavor or variety contain some amount of hydrogenated fat.
  • breads, rolls and buns
  • cookies
  • pop-tarts
  • cakes
  • crackers
  • ice cream
  • candy
  • breakfast cereal
  • granola bars
  • peanut butter
  • dips or spreads
  • chips and snack foods
  • fried fast foods
  • frozen potatoes
  • frozen waffles
What are some hints that a product might contain hydrogenated fats?
Products containing hydrogenated fat tend to be solid, not liquid. The following words are tip-offs:
  • chewy
  • creamy
  • lite
  • no animal fat
  • no cholesterol
They wouldn't put hydrogenated fats in kids' foods, right?
Wrong!  Kids foods have some of the highest levels of hydrogenated fats.  Especially guilty are the breakfast cereals, cookies and crackers that kids love. Breakfast bars, snack bars, peanut butter and other products marketed for kids are loaded with hydro fats.   We feel strongly that the epidemic of fat, lazy, attention-deficit children in the United States is at least partly a result of a diet extraordinarily high in hydrogenated fats and refined sugars.

What about fast food?  Does it have hydrogenated fats?
Fast food is loaded with hydro fats.  Hamburger and hot dog buns all have it.  French fries are mostly fried in pure hydrogenated fat now, since beef tallow is politically incorrect. McDonalds, among others, switched to vegetable shortening a few years ago in response to misguided public pressure to get rid of lard.  Why was Mickey-D's loathe to switch?  Because lard-fried fries taste better!  So now, we get bland fries with as much as 40 percent trans fats.  Be sure to read Fast Food Nation to get the scoop on the many evils of corporate-controlled fast food.

Donuts are also fried in hydrogenated fats and have some of the highest counts of trans fats of any food.

How do I find food products without hydrogenated fats?
It is possible to purchase bread, cookies, ice cream and all other named products which do not contain hydrogenated oils. After eight years, I know what to look for. Here are recommendations, by category:
  • Breads: Fresh local sourdough is usually a safe bet. Locally produced, organic, wheat or gluten free health-food-store-type breads are good. Rolls and buns are almost a lost cause, as are flour tortillas. Try pocket bread, fresh bagels or corn tortillas.
  • Cookies: 100-percent butter always works. Fat-free cookies held together and sweetened with juice are another good substitute.
  • Cakes and confections: Look for all-butter cakes. Flaky pastries like croissants should be safe. More and more, you can find muffins made with oil. Donuts are fried in hydrogenated fat; commercial pie crusts almost always are made with shortening.
  • Chocolates: Good chocolate contains cocoa fat, not hydro. I have never seen hydro in See's Candy, but Whitman's and Godiva is loaded with it. Snickers candy bars can be either. Reese's cups are reliably clean.  Hershey regular and almond bars are always hydro-free.
  • Candy: Things like sweet tarts, candy corn (my personal favorite), gum, hard candy and jujubes are mostly ok. Avoid caramels, tootsie rolls, Starbursts, chews, or filled candy bars like 3 Musketeers or Milky Way. If you must have a candy bar, 5th Avenue, Baby Ruth or Mounds are better bets, but by all means read the label.
  • Chips: Old fashioned kettle potato chips and regular Lay's are usually ok, most other potato chips are loaded with it. Tortilla chips vary tremendously. Again, health food stores, and occasionally aftermarket food outlets, will have acceptable non-hydrogenated and sometimes organic alternatives. Pretzels are more reliable, but must be watched. Corn chips, Sun chips, bagel chips, sourdough chips and corn nuts are all hydrogenated.
  • Crackers: It is almost impossible to purchase crackers without hydrogenated oils. Some plain water crackers may be clean.  Rykrisp are clean.  Health food stores are your best bet. 
  • Ice Cream: Haagen Dazs is the only totally clean product line. Portofino is very good. Sorbets is a safe bet. Ben and Jerry's, which claims to be all natural, has hydrogenated fats in most flavors. Godiva and Starbucks are equally bad. Small, organic brands are a much better bet. Mass-produced stuff is totally unpredictable.
  • Breakfast cereal: Your basic corn flakes, bran flakes, cheerios, and rice krispies are typically fine. Life is fine. Kiddie cereals, unfortunately, are nearly all hydrogenated. Granola needs to be watched carefully. Instant oats are an excellent replacement, but watch out for pre-fab flavored oatmeals.
  • Granola bars. Your basic rolled oats and honey is usually safe. Anything chewy or coated is going to be a hydro bomb. Kiddie granola bars are the worst offenders.
  • Peanut butter: Go as basic and natural as you can get. Johnson's Old Fashioned, sold in many discount chains, is straight peanuts and salt, which is all you need. Some stores offer a "grind your own" service; this is highly recommended. The major national brands are all hydrogenated.
  • Dips and spreads: This is a very wide open category. Anything non-dairy is hydrogenated, so look for a "real" diary label. Some of the new fresh or frozen guacamole products are not bad, and avocados are an excellent substitute for hydro. Beware bean dips and other fancy spreads. Pate is a much better choice, if you can handle it.
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