Chris Telden loves being creative and coming up with fun and unique pet names.
Products without hydrogenated oils are getting easier to find as more and more food manufacturers eliminate trans-fat based oils from their ingredients. However, buying prepared foods and ingredients that are truly "zero trans fat" isn't as straightforward as the product labels would have you think. Zero trans fats does not translate to zero partially hydrogenated oils.
U.S. food packaging laws currently allow manufacturers such as Crisco to say their shortening has "zero trans fats", even though Crisco products are packed with fully and partially hydrogenated soybean and palm oils. That is going to change with the recent FDA decision on trans-fats, moving them into the category of not generally recognized as safe. The loophole that allows this wording on the package labels is the USDA requirement that the serving size must have less than 0.5 grams of hydrogenated oil. Some commercially available vegetable shortening, like Crisco's, meets that requirement.
The serving size, however, is just 1 tablespoon. Each cup has 16 tablespoons. Crisco's own double-crust pie recipe calls for 3/4 cup of shortening (12 tablespoons). If you can manage to eat just 1/12th of a double-crust apple pie at a time (not deep-dish), you've managed to eat "zero trans fats" as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture. Otherwise, you might want to look for alternatives to shortening that do not contain hydrogenated oils.
Here you will find:
- list of substitutes for hydrogenated cooking oils, plus
- list of packaged products that have no hydrogenated fats.
What Are Trans Fats?
A trans fat is made by adding hydrogen to a vegetable oil, such as soybean oil or coconut oil. Trans fats are put in edible products by food manufacturers to increase their shelf life and give them the mouth feel and taste of animal-based fats. Partiallty hydrogenated oils were once seen as an alternative to cholesterol; now they are thought to be worse than cholesterol, raising LDL cholesterol without adding any health benefit.
I suspect one reason trans fats are more dangerous than animal based cholesterol-containing fats is because they're not as satisfying. People eat greater quantities.
Trans Fat Free Doesn't Always Mean Cholesterol Free or Saturated Fat Free
Some of the products on this page contain no cholesterol and no saturated fats. However, some foods listed do contain saturated fats from:
- animal sources like eggs and meat (in other words, they're not cholesterol-free), and/or
- palm or coconut oils
Why are saturated fats still used in trans-fat free cooking and baking?
Besides the health benefits of cholesterol and even possible health benefits of tropical oils like coconut oil or palm oil, saturated fats produce textures and tastes that help make products like cookies, coffee creamer, pie crust, and doughnuts taste the way they do.
As a health-conscious mother and health-food afficionado for many years, I don't think the diet of your average healthy adult needs to be free of all saturated fats, and definitely not in the case of kids, as studies such as this one, The Effects of Cholesterol on Learning and Memory, demonstrate that children need foods with cholesterol for brain growth.
However, some men and women are put on a cholesterol-restricted diet by a doctor and told to avoid all saturated fats. People with diabetes or at risk of heart attack or stroke may be among them. If your doctor has told you to restrict your saturated fat intake, then choose products made without hydrogenated oils, butter, lard or eggs - such as non-hydrogenated olive oil, nut oils and avocado oils.
If you are not on a mission to cut out cholesterol or saturated fats altogether from your diet, try to moderate cholesterol-containing snack foods to your own health needs. Choose non-hydrogenated products made with quality ingredients. For example, instead of shortening, use butter. But instead of regular butter, try butter from grass-fed cows, which contains healthy omega 3 fatty acids.
Cookies Without Hydrogenated Oils: Quadratini Wafer Cookies
I'd been looking for a chocolate-hazelnut taste like Nutella or Ferrero Rocher, but without the hydrogenated oil in the Nutella spread or all the sugar in the Ferrero Rocher candy. (Ferrero Rocher, by the way, doesn't have hydrogenated oils.) I found the Quadratini wafer cookies and almost got the Tiramisu flavor until I saw hazelnut - and I had to try them.
They're utterly delicious. A little dry - but then, I like dry sweets (witness my halvah addiction, and halvah most definitely does have hydrogenated oils). The wafer cookies are in perfect bite-size pieces. [Edit August 2010: I've now tried the Tiramisu and there's a sort of odd coconut flavor to it. I think I prefer the hazelnut.]
The Quadratini wafer cookies by Loaker are made in Italy. It was a bag of the Italian Quadratini hazelnut wafer cookies that I bought at the health food store that triggered the writing of this article. P.S. Since then, I have determined I'm allergic to hazelnut and pre-diabetic. So no more of these for me. :(
The ingredients in the hazelnut Quadratini are unbleached wheat flour, expeller pressed coconut oil, glucose syrup, sugar, hazelnuts, whey powder, soy flour, skimmed milk powder, cocoa, dexrose, barley malt extract, salt, leavening, emulsifier soy lecithin, and natural vanilla pods.
Non Hydrogenated Shortening, Margarine, Oil, and Lard
The best protection against hydrogenated oils is to make your own baked goods, salad dressings and fried foods. Try the following options for your cooking.
Shortening Substitutes (Crisco) - These are Saturated Fats
- Vegetable shortening made with palm oil - cholesterol free. I use Spectrum Organic Shortening, which is palm oil, all the time in place of classic Crisco for recipes that need that "flaky crust" effect, such as pie and biscuit recipes. I also use it for deep-frying chicken, french fries, and donuts.
- Expeller pressed coconut oil - cholesterol free (I buy both the Wilderness Family Naturals brand and the Tropical Traditions brand.)
- Virgin coconut oil (sometimes marketed erroneously as "extra virgin") - cholesterol-free
- Rendered duck fat or goose fat
- Homemade lard (rendered fat back or bacon). It may be out of health fashion, but I'm not convinced lard is the enemy of health in all cases. Certainly nothing makes as flaky a pie crust as lard. Note that store-bought lard nearly always contains hydrogenated oils.
Salad Oils Without Hydrogenation, Cholesterol, or Saturated Fats
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Pumpkin Seed Oil
- Avocado Oil
Non Hydrogenated Frying Oils Free of Cholesterol
- Peanut oil (not a saturated fat)
- Expeller pressed coconut oil (saturated fat)
- High oleic sunflower oil
Non Hydrogenated Coffee Creamer
Most powdered coffee creamers have hydrogenated oils, even though they're labeled as having "0 trans fats".
Liquid coffee creamer alternatives without trans fats include:
- half & half
- non dairy creamer (Silk soy creamer)
- non dairy milk (almond or coconut milk)
- evaporated milk
I haven't found a powdered coffee creamer without trans fats that's convenient to use when you don't have actual cream. It would certainly be nice! I have, however, found single-serving half-and-half packets that have no hydrogenation. The Land-o-Lakes Half & Half Mini Moo serving packages are similar to those half-and half packages you get in restaurants.
The short list above includes the foods I most look for when I go shopping but have a hard time finding at the local supermarket. If there are other food products you'd like to see here that truly have no trans fats added by way of hydrogenated oils, leave a comment and I'll see if I can find them.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
Question: What does nonhydrogenated shortening have in it?
Answer: The non-hydrogenated shortening I've been using is palm oil.
Question: Which salad dressings don’t have hydrogenated oil?
Answer: To dress my salads, I sprinkle vinegar, herbs, and extra virgin olive oil over the salad, then toss. It's delicious. (Try dill weed and garlic and black pepper. Yum.)
Question: Is coconut oil a nonhydrogenated shortening?
Answer: It depends on the source. The label should say whether it's hydrogenated or not.
Question: Is there someplace that sells lard that has not been processed with hydrogenation? I realize there will be some hydrogenated fat that occurs naturally in lard.
Answer: I have not found a good and inexpensive source of non-hydrogenated lard. Your best bet may be to render it yourself.