Hydrogenated Oil & Peanut Butter: Rethink Your Peanut Butter Today
Many of us probably remember the salmonella outbreak that occurred in a vast amount of products containing peanut butter in 2008, which was certainly a good motive to throw your peanut butter away immediately. However, there is another reason that you should consider tossing your peanut butter, especially if you are concerned about your overall health.
Many peanut butter products on the market today found on the shelves of your local grocery store contain an ingredient that is well-known to be very bad for your health - partially hydrogenated oils, also known as trans fats. Hydrogenated oils are primarily used to make a product more shelf-stable, which means it will have a later expiration date and be available for sale for a longer period of time before it is out-of-date.
This summer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) passed a very important ruling about trans fats. On June 16, 2015, the food industry was given 3 years to decrease the use of artificial trans fats in foods. Convincing research within the last 10 years has shown that consuming trans fat increases the amount of bad cholesterol in our bodies, even if it is just a small amount. Elevated cholesterol levels are a real problem because this can lead to plaque buildup in the lining of the arteries. Plaque deposits can cause major problems: blocking an artery, decreasing the supply of blood to the heart muscle, and increasing the risk for blood clots, which could cause a stroke.
It's important to remember that there are two ways that trans fats can be found in foods. Some foods have naturally occurring trans fats, like the small amount found in milk and meat products. A second source of trans fats are those formed during a type of food processing known as hydrogenation. Hydrogenation is a process where hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to make them solid and therefore more shelf-stable.
The main source of trans fats in the US food supply are from partially and fully hydrogenated oils that are added to foods like peanut butter, coffee creamer, ready-to-use frosting, refrigerated dough products (like pop-can biscuits and cinnamon rolls), vegetable shortening and stick margarine, as well as frozen pizza, cakes, pie crusts, and some crackers. The only way to know if a food product has trans fat in it is to look in the ingredient list on the label. If the label reads fully or partially hydrogenated oils, then that food product contains trans fats. The FDA has issued statements encouraging consumers to check a food's ingredient list to determine whether or not it contains hydrogenated oils. Even food products labeled with 0g trans fat can contain small amounts of trans fats which should be removed.
While it's nearly impossible to remove all trans fat from our diet, eliminating as much of it from our diet as possible is best for our long-term health, as even small amounts add up through the day and over time.
Other ways to reduce trans fat intake include removing the skin from poultry products, and draining the fats from cooked meats. Choosing low-fat dairy products can help reduce trans fat intake from animal products such as milk, yogurt, and cheeses.
Luckily there are a number brands of peanut butter that have switched to using more natural shelf-stable oils such as palm oil, which serves the same function. The key is to look at the ingredient list to search out which food products have trans fats and which are free of hydrogenated oils.