DR. ROACH:

I have a question about hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats. What is the difference? Nutritionists tell us to look out for partially hydrogenated, but never mention the other one. Seems to me both would be bad for you. — D.D.F.

ANSWER:

You are quite right. There are four kinds of fat. Two are healthier — monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, and these are found in healthy oils, like olive oil and canola oil. Two fats are unhealthy — trans-saturated, also called partially hydrogenated, and saturated, which is fully hydrogenated but isn’t ever really called that.Trans-saturated fat is not healthy. Food companies make it by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil at high temperature. The chemical bonds are “trans,” which are not normally found in nature. The process makes the fat more solid at room temperature. It isn’t much of an exaggeration to call trans fat toxic, since even modest amounts increase risk for heart disease from blockage of the arteries. I recommend as little trans fat in the diet as possible — preferably none. Saturated fat isn’t healthy either, but it isn’t as bad for you as trans fat. There are two major kinds of saturated fat: Those that come from animal products (butter, red meat), and those from tropical sources, like palm and coconut. Most experts think tropical saturated fats are not as unhealthy as those found in animal products. Nonetheless, I recommend keeping saturated fat intake low. The American Heart Association recommends less than 16 grams for a person on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet.

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