We often hear of ingredients like hydrogenated vegetable oil and think they sound sort of normal. Can’t be too bad, right? Well in an article by Jane Thurnell-Read on healthandgoodness.com she explains the process of making hydrogenated vegetable oil;
Hydrogenation is a high tech process. Vegetable seeds are cleaned and bleached to remove all colour, taste, smells and impurities. The liquid vegetable oil is then heated to high temperatures and a catalyst (commonly nickel, but could be palladium, platinum or rhodium) is added. Hydrogen is bubbled through the liquid. The mixture is then filtered to remove the metal, leaving hydrogenated vegetable oil. Water, whey, salt, vitamins, colourings, flavourings and emulsifiers may then be added to produce hydrogenated margarine.
Wow! First the seeds are stripped of their colour. taste and smell, then heated to high-temperature and heavy metals are added (!!) and hydrogen is bubbled through. Sounds scary. After all of that, flavour and color is added back.
All of this doesn’t sound right. Why strip away flavour and colour and add it back later. sounds very artificial. Jane describes the benefits;
The advantage of all this is that it gives a uniform product that is solid at room temperature and has a long shelf life. This last characteristic is very important both for manufacturers and consumers. It gives manufacturers increased flexibility, and it means that consumers can buy products and not have to worry so much about ‘best before’ dates.
So the benefits are really for the food company. You can argue that people like to buy foods that don’t go off quickly, that’s true. So, maybe all the blame isn’t with the food companies, but I think it mostly is. It’s possible to have natural foods that don’t go off too quickly.
What problems does this hydrogenation process cause for us? Again, Jane describes;
The hydrogenation process changes the nature of some of the fats into a form that is not easily recognised by the body (trans fatty acids). We just do not know the long term effect of our constant exposure to these fats, although evidence is beginning to appear linking them to many degenerative diseases.
This is just another example of how our artificial world is creating a bad environment for us. Time and again we see that moving away from nature causes us health problems and moving back closer to nature starts to cure these problems. A good example is diabetes which we can argue is a disease cause by our highly non-natural diets and when we go back to a natural diet (as shown in the movie Simply Raw) the body can cure itself of the disease quickly.
So, the real key is to stay close to nature. As you can see from the description above, the hydrogenation process to create hydrogenated vegetable oil is very, very far away from nature. This is not any food that nature intended us to eat. That’s good enough reason alone to choose not to eat hydrogenated vegetable oil.