what is it?
Hydrogenation is the process of forcing hydrogen atoms into the holes of unsaturated fatty acids. This is done with hydrogen gas under pressure with a metal catalyst at a temperature of 248-410 degrees F (120-210 C). Unfortunately this process produces trans fatty acids, which our body does not like very much.
what does it do?
Hydrogenation makes liquid fats solidify so we can easily spread them on anything we would like. It also extends the shelf life of food products.
where is it commonly found?
Almost everywhere you look!
It is basically margarine and in it's "pure form" shortening (ie: Crisco), but you can find it in breads, frozen meals, donuts, cakes, cookies, crackers, muffins, potato chips, soups, sauces, french fries, ....
what known dangers are there?
Through hydrogenation, unsaturated fats become saturated fats, thus have the same capacity to do harm as saturated fats. This process produces trans fatty acids which raises LDL cholesterol levels, the bad cholesterol, while lowering the HDL levels, the good cholesterol in your body. This, of course, increases the risk of coronary heart disease.
is it necessary?
No, there are liquid forms of margarine that are healthier if you are craving that margarine taste. Also, more and more food companies are using non-hydrogenated vegetable oils, so look at the ingredient lists carefully. Do not be fooled by "partially hydrogenated oils" because even though they are half as bad, they are still bad.
a few websites
Walton Feed: The Essential Fatty Acids Hydrogenation and Margarine
Soft fats healthier than ones that harden at room temperature: Diana Davis, WSB-TV Atlanta health reporter
Cyberparent: Hydrogenated Fats: The Trojan Horse of the Food Industry
The Seattle Times: Latest food villain: hydrogenated oil
CSPI Press Release: Trans Fat Spells Double Trouble for Arteries.
What the Food Labels Don't Tell You
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