Hydrogenation is a man-made technique of adding a hydrogen ion to a liquid oil, thus creating a solid product such as margarine or Crisco. The problem with this fifty-year-old technology is that it changes the molecular structure from a “cis fatty acid” to a “trans fatty acid,” causing a potent carcinogenic reaction. Hydrogenation clogs arteries and elevates cholesterol levels as well. Worse yet, it has been shown to not break down in the body. Listed as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated in many of our baked goods, processed foods, cereals, crackers and frozen meals.

The food industry uses this product because it’s cheap, it increases flavor and flakiness and extends shelf life. It can be easily reused, as in the case of fast food french fries which may be cooked in two week old hydrogenated shortening. The bottom line is to try and limit your exposure to hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated products as much as possible. Many health advocates believe that organic butter, in small amounts, is better for one’s health than shortening and margarine.

The overall goal is to cut down on all fats. In baking, substitute unsweetened applesauce in lieu of the fat. Switch to an all fruit jam for your toast. Tahini or hummus spreads are also good. Use a non stick pan when frying. Saute with water, broth, wine, spray-type vegetable oils or soy sauce. When reading labels, look at the type of fat being used, not just the percentage. All fats are not created equal! Beware of the words “hydrogenated” and “partially hydrogenated” and look for products without these poisons in them.

All fats and oils should be stored in the refrigerator to avoid rancidity. Extra virgin expeller pressed (or cold pressed) olive oil or flaxseed oil is good for cold use, i.e., salad dressings and marinades. Peanut oil, grapeseed oil and butter are best to cook with because they have a higher heat tolerance and won’t break down as readily as other fats. It’s all the little steps we take that make a big difference. The bottom line is… butter is better than margarine, because it’s natural.

—Cheri Bianchini, RN, PHN
© 2012, Cheri Bianchini. All rights reserved.