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Hydrogenated Fat Q & A

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Q I’ve noticed a lot of foods contain hydrogenated fat. Is this bad for my diet?

A As you’ve already discovered, many processed foods contain hydrogenated fat or hydrogenated vegetable oil and these ingredients certainly contribute to the calorie content of a food, often making it unsuitable if you’re trying to lose weight. But worse than this, foods containing these ingredients also contain trans fats – and these are thought to be as harmful to heart health as saturated fat.

Ironically, it’s the processing of pure vegetable oils – a good source of heart-friendly unsaturates – that creates harmful trans fats! During manufacturing, these liquid oils have hydrogen bubbled through them in a process called hydrogenation to improve their texture, flavour and shelf life. The resulting product is a more solid fat, called hydrogenated fat or hydrogenated vegetable oil, which goes on to be used as an ingredient in many processed foods.

Unfortunately, there are no legal requirements for food manufacturers to label trans fats and few choose to do so. This means for now, you need to scour ingredients lists for hydrogenated fats or hydrogenated vegetable oils. If a food product contains either, it will almost certainly contain trans fats, too – and the higher up the list the ingredient appears, the more trans fats the product will contain.

In general though, trans fats are found in cakes, biscuits, margarines, takeaways, pastry, pies and fried foods – and as you know, these are the foods you should be eating less of anyway if you want to lose weight!

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