We’re all practicing safe social distancing right now, which means we’re eating more at home. And if you’re not so big on cooking, packaged and preserved foods might be your go-to options. However, it’s extremely important for your health that you check your labels for hydrogenated oils.
Hydrogenated oils are vegetable oils that have been infused with hydrogen molecules, which changes the texture, stability, and shelf life of the oil. In other words, hydrogenation makes the oils cheaper, more solid, and also makes them (and the products they are in) last longer in your pantry. And while this is all convenient for food manufacturers, unfortunately, hydrogenated oils have been shown to have a negative impact on your health.
For one, the hydrogenation process turns the fat in vegetable oils into trans fat, which can have an adverse effect on your health. Research has shown that trans fat or trans fatty acids from hydrogenated oils can clog your arteries and contribute to heart disease. One study observing 78,778 women over a 20-year period found that high trans fat intake was associated with a significantly greater risk of heart disease. And while governments in many countries have implemented regulations on trans fats, they still appear in many products.
Hydrogenated oils don’t only impact your heart health, though. They can also impact your blood sugar and put you at risk for conditions like type 2 diabetes. A large study of over 85,000 women over a 16-year period found that those who consumed the highest amount of trans fat from hydrogenated oils were at a significantly higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes. Another study showed that subjects who consumed hydrogenated oils were more insulin resistant, meaning that their bodies were unable to use insulin — the hormone which regulates blood sugar — effectively.
And if that weren’t enough, hydrogenated oils have also been linked with inflammation, and chronic inflammation can cause a host of health conditions — including obesity. One study in particular found that some markers of inflammation were as much as 73 percent higher in subjects who consumed the highest amount of trans fats from hydrogenated oils, compared with those who had the least. Researchers from one study attempted to understand the relationship between trans fats and obesity in 2006. They found that not only was trans fat consumption associated with a higher weight, but it also led to redistribution of fat tissue, particularly to the area of the abdomen. That means hydrogenated oils can cause the pounds to go straight to your belly!
So if you’re ready to call it quits with hydrogenated oils, we can’t say we blame you. The trouble, as we mentioned, is that it’s hidden in a lot of foods. Here are some tips to help you out.
Read your labels.
Hydrogenated oils are commonly-used vegetable oils (soybean oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, palm oil, generic “vegetable” oil), so be sure to check your food labels for these ingredients.
Eliminate (or avoid) common culprits.
Popular foods that are high in hydrogenated oils include margarine, vegetable shortening, packaged baked goods, coffee creamers, crackers, popcorn, pre-made dough, potato chips, fried foods, and packaged snacks like protein bars. The best way to avoid the harmful additives in these foods is to avoid them altogether or opt for versions without the oils added.
Be sure to check the labels on “health foods” like hummus and nut butter, too. Certain brands will still have hydrogenated oils in them, but many don’t! I love Wild Soil Almond Butter ($14.95, Amazon) that just has one ingredient — almonds!
Cook with heart-healthy oils.
Avoid cooking at home with oils like canola oil and vegetable oil, which are often hydrogenated. Opt for oils like avocado oil or coconut oil, which have a higher smoke point, preserving their heart-healthy fatty-acids. Frying with olive oil should be avoided since the smoke point is lower, and high heat breaks down the fatty acids, turning the oil rancid.
So there you have it. If you want to take care of your body as time goes along, certain foods just don’t fit the bill. Eliminating hydrogenated vegetable oil is a great way to clean up your diet and fight harmful health conditions. Here’s to a healthier, more vibrant you!
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.