47°F
weather icon Mostly Cloudy
app-logo
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

On Nutrition: Is hydrogenated fat in peanut butter safe to eat?

I’m amazed at the pace at which nutrition science continues to evolve — and get more complicated. Along with that thought comes this question from David in Tucson, Arizona:

“Dear Barbara, is hydrogenated peanut butter as healthy as the nonhydrogenated kind? Hydrogenated peanut butter only adds a half-gram of saturated fat to peanut butter’s content, so it would seem OK to eat, but what do you think?”

I think you ask a very good question, David. And it’s one that requires some background.

Ever wonder why olive or other vegetable oils in your cabinet get rancid quicker than, say, butter or coconut oil? Fats that are more solid at room temperature are more stable; they don’t disintegrate as quickly. This is largely due to their higher content of saturated fat.

That’s what the process of hydrogenation does. It “saturates” a liquid oil with hydrogen to make it more solid and thus more shelf stable.

There is a big difference, however, between fats that are fully versus partially hydrogenated. Partially hydrogenated fats that used to reside in some margarines and snack foods are no longer allowed in our food supply because they are the main source of artificial trans fat.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, trans fats raise the level of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the blood. An elevated LDL level increases your risk of developing heart disease, the leading cause of death in men and women in the U.S.

Removing partially hydrogenated oils from processed foods could prevent thousands of heart attacks and deaths each year, the FDA reports. And that’s what it did in 2018.

On the other hand, hydrogenated oils (not partially hydrogenated) are still allowed in some food products (including peanut butter) to maintain freshness. Although these products do not contain trans fats (check the label), the process of hydrogenation produces more saturated fat, which we are advised to limit in our diets.

So, back to your question, David. The healthiest peanut butter is one with zero trans fat and a low amount of saturated fat, hydrogenated or not.

Not confused enough yet? I’m looking at a jar of “natural” peanut butter that contains no hydrogenated oil — just peanuts, sugar, palm oil and salt. And it has 3.5 grams of saturated fat per serving. Where did that come from? While peanuts contain mostly good monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, they do contain a small amount of saturated fat. And palm oil is naturally high in saturated fat.

I’d say that half-gram of saturated fat in your peanut butter stabilized with hydrogenated oil is not much to worry about.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Most Americans aren’t getting enough exercise, study finds

Less than a third of U.S. adults meet suggested benchmarks for aerobic and muscle-building activities set out by health officials, according to a new study.

Ask the Pediatrician: What are group A strep infections?

Recently, clusters of invasive group A strep infections in children have been reported, understandably causing concern among parents.

What is degenerative disk disease and what can be done about it?

Our spinal disks wear out with age and use. About 20 percent of all U.S. adults have some amount of degeneration by age 65. This increases to about 35 percent by 80.

 
Thinking about going vegan? Here’s what you need to know

“It’s a lot easier than you think,” says Robin Asbell, chef, cooking instructor and author of several cookbooks, including 2011’s “Big Vegan.”

Doctors break down 7 common types of heart conditions

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with heart conditions affecting more and more people each year. For February, American Heart Month, here’s a look at seven types of heart problems.

Savvy Senior: What are IRS tax filing requirements for retirees?

Whether you are required to file a federal income tax return this year will depend on how much you earned last year, as well as the source of the income, your age and filing status.

Osteoporosis more prevalent in women but can also affect men

Worldwide, 1 in 3 women over age 50 will experience a bone fracture due to osteoporosis, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. But 1 in 5 men over age 50 will have the same issue.

Why are some kids prone to ear infections?

Ear infections often are a direct result of a common cold, allergy or other upper respiratory illness. These illnesses are more common during the winter, so ear infections also are more common this time of year.