Hydrogenated oils are vegetable oils that are infused with hydrogen and then compressed, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The result is a solid oil that resists spoiling and has a much longer shelf life than non-hydrogenated oils. Unfortunately, hydrogenated oils--particularly partially hydrogenated oils--can raise cholesterol, promote heart disease and cause other health problems. Spotting foods that contain hydrogenated oils is an important step to maintaining heart health.
Fast-food restaurants frequently use hydrogenated oils because these oils resist spoiling. This means that these restaurants can store the oils in the form of shortening blocks for much longer than they could store open containers of non-hydrogenated oils, according to Selene Yeager, editor of "The Doctor's Book of Food Remedies." Fast-food shortening almost always contains partially hydrogenated oils, which contain trans fats that are especially damaging to the arteries.
Even fast-food restaurants that use liquid oils may purchase foods that have been partially fried in hydrogenated oils before packaging and freezing, according to the University of Pennsylvania's Office of Health Education.
Fried foods, such as french fries and fried chicken, are among the fast foods that most commonly contain hydrogenated oils.
Margarine, especially if it is in stick form, nearly always contains hydrogenated fats, says Yeager. Some spreadable margarine also contains hydrogenated oils, but there are options available that contain olive oil and other natural oils instead. Choose an olive oil-based margarine or real butter in place of stick margarine.
Snack Chips and Crackers
Commercially packaged snack foods, especially chips and crackers, commonly contain hydrogenated oils, according to the University of Pennsylvania's Office of Health Education. Even snacks labeled "reduced fat" may still contain hydrogenated oils and trans fats. Choose pretzels or toasted pita bread instead of potato chips or cheese crackers to avoid these additives.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Tips to Spot Hydrogenated Fat/Trans Fat in Foods
- "The Doctor's Book of Food Remedies"; Selene Yeager; 1998
- University of Pennsylvania Office of Health Education: The Top Ten Foods to Beware