Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fat of the Land

Since I'm working with oil so much, I needed to find out for myself what exactly a trans fat is... and the answer is actually simple and interesting! Trans fats are by-and-large, man-made fats produced by hydrogenating vegetable oil to make it more solid, like Crisco. Trans fats are now the culprit in raising the level of the BAD cholesterol, LDL, so they are something to be avoided. Anything made with 'partially hydrogenated vegetable oil' has trans fat. Interestingly, pork lard, beef tallow, butter and other animal fats are very low in trans fats. Current science is saying it is healthier to eat lard than a hydrogenated vegetable oil, so enjoy those pie crusts made with real lard. Just be aware that the square package of lard sold in the grocery store is likely a HYDROGENATED lard and would not have a health advantage. Time to get to know the local butcher and get some real rendered lard that is not commercially hydrogenated.

The vegetable oils found in restaurants' deep fryers can either be zero trans fat, meaning they are not hydrogenated, or have trans fat present. The typical restaurant uses "creamy" deep fryer oil... it is called creamy because it is a mix of hydrogenated vegetable oil that lends thickening to the oil at room temperature. For fuel use, a zero trans fat oil is going to have much better low temperature performance than a "creamy" oil, though both will burn nicely once warmed up.

1 comment:

Penny said...

Don't go crazy with the lard pie yet! The official word from the American Heart Association is that while animal fats may be better than hydrogenated or trans fats, the key is "in moderation" and better to replace these with healthy unsaturated fats from foods such as nuts, seeds, fish and vegetable oils. Their guidelines are: less than 25–35% of your daily total calories from all fats, no more than 7% of daily total calories from saturated fat, and less than 1% of total daily calories from trans fat, and I think the 7% and 1% are included in the 25-35%. Yes, I'm trying to lower my cholesterol... :)