Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils – A Reminder

Since I’ve turned from vegetarian to vegan (about 18 months ago), I’ve relaxed some of my food choices and actually put on weight. I’ve only recently noticed what I’ve been doing and have started to become concerned. Last week, I received a welcome reminder about the dangers of hydrogenated vegetable oils from my very good friend, Sue. It feels like she’s cured me of this poor “food” I’d started eating again.

Hydrogenated vegetable oils

Vegetarian to Vegan and changes in food choices

When I was vegetarian, I was also eating mostly raw foods and avoiding bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and sugar, but could enjoy cheese and most desserts (from time to time). Once I decided to switch to vegan (mostly for animal welfare reasons) I found my food options much more limited. Most restaurants have nice salads but almost always with some sort of cheese or egg in them. I often couldn’t find a vegan salad except for the simple side salads. Also, just about every dessert on a restaurants menu contains cream, milk, eggs or cheese of some sort. The only vegan dessert option seems to be fresh fruit, if it’s available. Then for the main course, I have to avoid pasta dishes with creamy sources, as well as all seafood and shellfish dishes.

So, as a new vegan, I found my food choices to be significantly limited and this caused me to start making choices that I had not been making as a vegetarian. I started to eat more bread and chose pasta dishes when there was an option without meat or cream in the sauce. I also started to eat more potatoes, and began to get side orders of hot potato chips at restaurants because I thought “well, at least they are vegan”.

So, in order to live within the vegan label, I began to break the rule of avoiding these five things – bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and sugar – that had served my health so well as a vegetarian (it was the book, Fantastic Voyage, which put me on to these five things to avoid). This was a bad trend and I wasn’t really aware of it.

Eating Fries at Sue’s place

Well, last week, I was on holiday at Sue’s place. Everyone had ordered take-away pizza and I was having salad but, as a “treat”, I ordered some French Fries because “at least they are vegan”. I was eating my salad and French Fries and Sue mentioned to me “aren’t you concerned about hydrogenated vegetable oils?” and this hit a bit like a bus.

hydrogenated vegetable oil

An example lunch table during my recent ski holiday. I was on the right with soup and fries. Sue is on the left with a lovely raw salad. Notice another large plate of fries for all to share (Sue didn’t have any). The risk of hydrogenated vegetable oil is too great.

If you remember my posts from almost two years  and two-and-a-half years ago, Rapeseed invasion and monocultures and Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil – Innocent?, you know that I’ve been concerned about hydrogenated vegetable oils (known to contain so-called trans-fats) for some time. How could I have forgotten about these dangers?

Since I was eating hot potato chips (French Fries) from a local take-away store, there’s a pretty good chance they were using some cheap hydrogenated vegetable oils for the frying. Sue’s simple question to me made me instantly snap out of the daydream I was in where I thought that fries were ok because “at least they are vegan”.

The problem of hydrogenated vegetable oils

This video is great way to get an idea about hydrogenated vegetable oils. It’s a promotional video for Canola oil but it’s horrifying. They start by saying it’s one of the healthiest oils available but give exactly the wrong evidence for that. They say it’s lowest in saturated fats, but that’s more of a reason why it’s not healthy. They they go through a myriad of processing techniques that get a bit confusing and finish by saying that they pass the oil through a bleaching process to lighten it’s colour and then a steam injection heating  process to remove the Canola odour. This backs up what I said in Rapeseed Invasion and Monocultures and Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil – Innocent?, the Canola or rapeseed oil is basically a bad oil and this video clearly demonstrates that by showing the heavy processing needed to improve its colour and remove its smell.

Now, some more information from the internet on hydrogenated vegetable oils.

This article from mercola.com notes that;

  • “Vegetable oils were virtually nonexistent at the beginning of the century. Now, they make up about 7-8 percent of all calories consumed by the American public.”
  • “Dr. Fred Kummerow—now nearly 100 years old— realized the hazards of trans fats in the 1950’s, and was the first researcher to publish a paper on it in 1957. He discovered that it’s not cholesterol that causes heart disease, rather the trans fats are to blame.”
  • “When heated, especially to high temperatures, they (vegetable oils) degrade into oxidation products. More than 100 dangerous oxidation products have been found in a single piece of chicken fried in vegetable oils”
  • “That’s the reason that vegetable oils were hardened (hydrogenated) to be able to be used in the first place. They couldn’t be used simply as oil.”

And this article – Canola Oil: Good or Bad? – says;

  • Canola oil is extracted from rapeseeds that have been bred to contain less of some unfavorable substances. Most of the world’s canola crop is genetically modified.
  • Canola oil is made with a highly unnatural processing method that involves high heat, deodorization and the toxic solvent hexane. Significant amounts of trans fats are formed during this process.
  • Although canola is high in polyunsaturated fats, a large part of them have already gone rancid or turned into trans fats. It is low in saturated fat, which doesn’t really matter because saturated fat is harmless.
  • When in doubt, keep this golden rule in mind: “Nature doesn’t make bad fats, factories do!” – Dr. Cate Shanahan

“Nature doesn’t make bad fats, factories do!”

This page from the U.S. FDA – Talking About Trans Fat: What You Need to Know – says;

  • Trans fat formed during food processing – this type of trans fat is created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil (a process called hydrogenation) to make it more solid. Partially hydrogenated oils are used by food manufacturers to improve the texture, shelf life, and flavor stability of foods. About half of the trans fat Americans consume is formed during food processing, and partially hydrogenated oils are the main source of this type of trans fat in the Unites States (U.S.).

In Europe, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says that “Europe leads the world in eliminating trans fats” but there’s still no guarantee that the hot potato chips I was eating in the French Alps were free from hydrogenated vegetable oils and trans-fats. I highly doubt it.

Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils – What Now?

There is so much evidence that trans-fats and hydrogenated vegetable oils are really nasty things. Too much evidence to ignore. How could I justify polluting my body with such substances, especially when there are great alternatives like coconut oil.

Therefore, right now, I don’t believe I’ll ever eat another hot potato chip unless I’ve cooked it myself. In fact, one wonderful thing to do is cut up some sweet potatoes (I love sweet potatoes) and simply bake them in the oven on foil with some coconut oil and a little pink Himalayan salt. These are delicious and certainly contain no worrying fats.

Please love yourself and your body enough to be aware of what’s bad for it and avoid it. It’s the least you can do for yourself. Why make life harder when there are plenty of good alternatives.

I’m going to avoid hydrogenated vegetable oils whenever I can. Always, if possible. I hope I remember forever the good reminder that Sue gave me last week. Thanks Sue!

Related Links – Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils

From the Los Angeles Times – FDA says trans fats are not safe and must be removed from food supply – and – Rise and fall of trans fat: A history of partially hydrogenated oil.

2 Responses to “Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils – A Reminder”

  1. Sue Stevenson

    Hi Peter, great to read your message. You make me sound like a food saint (which I am not). My turn to thank you for all the lovely things you have introduced me to….. not least coconut oil and spirulina and lovely raw vegetable smoothies. While reading your article it got me thinking about the extensive use of cooking oils in restaurants and hotels, private homes and so on for deep frying and I thought to myself how do they dispose of all this stuff? Is there a horrible hydrogenated vegetable oil slick growing somewhere in our oceans? Yuk, doesn’t bear thinking about!! I really hope not!


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