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Prairie Fare: Know Your Fats

We need to limit or minimize saturated and trans fat in our diet and we should be using a healthier type of fat.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Mom, what is this stuff made of, anyway?” my 10-year-old daughter asked as we were mixing cookie dough.

“Shortening is vegetable oil that has been made into a solid,” I replied.

“How old is it?” she asked, looking at the yellow shortening as if it were cosmic sludge.

“It’s not old!” my husband said from the next room.

“I don’t use shortening very often, but it stays fresh quite a while in our cupboard. This cookie recipe seems to turn out better with shortening,” I said, a bit apologetically.

“How do they make this stuff?” she asked, seeming a bit repulsed.

“The process is kind of complicated. Do you see it says ‘partially hydrogenated’ on the ingredient label? Hydrogenation is a chemical process where they add hydrogen to the double bonds in the fat’s chemical structure. This process makes liquid oil into solid fat,” I replied as I picked up the container.

“Do you see where it says ‘saturated fat’ on the nutrition label? Hydrogenation makes unsaturated liquid fats into saturated solid fats. ‘Trans fat’ can be formed. Saturated fat and trans fat are not good for us, so we need to cut down on those,” I continued.

“Ah, OK then,” she said, looking at me with a slightly glazed expression.

“Well, you asked,” I said with a laugh as I added sugar to the bowl.

“Well, why are we making food that’s bad for us?” she asked, looking at the label and noticing the saturated fat content.

Now I was feeling really guilty.

“You’re right. We need to limit or minimize saturated and trans fat in our diet and we should be using a healthier type of fat. In fact, we can stop making the cookies right now,” I said, knowing what the response would be.

“No, I think it’s OK. We will just eat a couple of cookies!” she exclaimed.

When you make food selections, examine nutrition labels and ingredient labels. Packaged cookies and crackers often contain hydrogenated shortenings because these fats are more shelf stable.

Foods high in most types of saturated fats are linked to raising LDL (bad) cholesterol and may increase heart disease risk.

During the hydrogenation process, “trans fat” is formed. It has a double negative effect because trans fat may raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol.

Try to choose fats with no trans fat, but remember this loophole for food manufacturers: If a food contains less than 0.5 gram of trans fat per serving, the amount on the nutrition facts label appears as “zero trans fat.”

Therefore, check the ingredient label for “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated” so you know if some trans fat is present, even if it is not enough to register on the nutrition label.

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are heart healthy. Cooking oil, salad dressings, nuts and fatty fish contain these types of fats.

Oils are a mixture of fats. Canola oil and olive oil are particularly high in monounsaturated fats. Sunflower oil, corn oil and soybean oil are high in polyunsaturated fats.

Bottom line: Cook and bake with oil instead of solid shortening whenever possible. However, remember that oils contain about 120 calories per tablespoon. Too many calories from any source, including healthy oils, can promote weight gain.

Here’s a recipe from Sheri Coleman of the Northern Canola Growers Association. For more recipes and information, visit http://www.northerncanola.com.

Favorite Pumpkin Bread

3 1/2 c. flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

2 c. brown sugar

1 c. canola oil

4 eggs

2 c. canned pumpkin

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray two loaf pans (9-inch by 5-inch) with canola baking spray. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients until just blended. Pour batter into pans and bake for one hour and 15 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Makes 24 servings. Each serving has 220 calories, 10 grams (g) of fat, 31 g of carbohydrate and 4 g of protein.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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