Ingredient of the Week: Hydrogenated Oils
Please note: the Ingredient of the Day segment for the Natty Brat has been turned into the Ingredient of the Week.
What are Hydrogenated Oils?
Hydrogenated oils are natural oils that have been chemically processed and hydrogenated. Hydrogenation is a rather complicated process but here is the breakdown: hydrogenation is a chemical reaction between molecular hydrogen (H2) and another compound or element – usually in the presence of a catalyst. It is commonly used to reduce or saturate organic compounds, including natural oils. Hydrogenation typically constitutes the addition of pairs of hydrogen atoms to a molecule. Said molecule is typically an alkaline. A catalyst or multiple catalysts are required for the reaction to be usable. However, non-catalytic hydrogenation can be done, but requires a very high temperature in order to be successful. Hydrogenation decreases the double and triple bonds in hydrocarbons. Hydrogenation of unsaturated fats produces saturated fats. When partial hydrogenation occurs, trans fats may be generated as well. Most vegetable oils are derived from polyunsaturated fatty acids (containing more than one carbon-carbon double bonds). The partial hydrogenation of these oils reduces most, but not all, of their carbon-carbon double bonds. The degree of hydrogenation for each type of oil is controlled by restricting the amount of hydrogen, reaction temperature and time, and the catalyst used to create the hydrogenated oil. Hydrogenation converts liquid natural vegetable oils into solid or semi-solid fats, like those found in margarine. Changing the degree of saturation of the fat changes some important physical properties. Some changes include the melting range of the ingredient, which is why liquid oils become semi-solid.
What are Hydrogenated Oils Used In?
Hydrogenated oils produce solid or semi-solid fats, which are preferred for baking because of the way the fat mixes with flour. The mixture produces a more desirable texture of the baked good. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are cheaper than animal source fats, are available in a wide range of consistencies, and increase oxidative stability/shelf life of a baked good. Because of these characteristics, they are the predominantly used fats (used as shortening) in most commercial baked goods.
Why are Hydrogenated Oils Bad for Me?
The hydrogenation process causes the natural oil to reach a physical state that is closer to plastic than to the original oil, with hydrogenated oils being only one (1) molecule away from being plastic. Ingestion of hydrogenated oils cause the human blood to become thicker, thus making the human heart work harder to pass blood through the veins. Because of this, hydrogenated oils can contribute to high blood pressure. The gummy substance produced in the blood by the hydrogenated oils can stick to the arteries and cause scarring. The body then naturally produces cholesterol to help heal the arteries, which can lead to high cholesterol. Because of the scarring that is happening over and over again, the arteries begin to close, causing even more strain on the heart. Hydrogenated oils can also slow down the micro-circulation of the blood through the brain. This can cause various emotional and physical issues, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ADHD and clouded thinking. Also, the digestion of hydrogenated oils is difficult on the digestive system. Because the hydrogenation process requires such high temperatures to create, it also requires said high temperatures to break down the hydrogenated oils. Hydrogenated oils are not substances that the human body is designed to absorb. As the body sends more enzymes (digestive acids) into the stomach to try and digest the hydrogenated oils, the internal stomach temperature rises, which can lead to cancer. It can take thousands of degrees to break down plastic, but the human body is often only partially successful at breaking down and digesting hydrogenated oils as it cannot bring its internal temperature up to the temperature required to break down the hydrogenated oils. Hydrogenated oils can cause false immune responses. These responses put a great strain on the immune system and decreases overall immunity.