Stay Away from These 3 Trans-Fat Alternatives

Interesterfied Oil appearing on an ingredient list

People like to eat pastries. They are a flavorful combination of flour, sugar, and fats. In generations past, pastries were prepared with either butter or lard. But these fats are at the same time too expensive and unhealthy. They are high in saturated fat.

Manufacturers turned to vegetable oils instead. The problem was that these oils did not produce the same tasty pastries. You see, butter and lard are solid fats at room temperature, whereas vegetable oils are liquid. The resulting pastry simply did not “stand up” or provide the right mouthfeel.

Science came to the rescue with a technique called hydrogenation. Liquid oils were bombarded with hydrogen atoms until they started to solidify. Partial hydrogenation provided the best result for food production. There was one problem. The new fat compound, called trans-fat, was found to be unhealthier than the fats from butter or lard. However, these partially hydrogenated fats were cheap to manufacture, so companies used them anyway for many decades.

It took a while, but trans-fats are starting to disappear from our food supply, due to regulation, labeling requirements and consumer demand. The need for fats that are solid at room temperature has not diminished though.

There are currently 2 alternatives, and neither is good news:

1. Fractionated Oils. These oils are usually produced from palm oil or palm kernel oil. These oils are relatively high in saturated fat, but the processing makes them even higher in saturated fat. This is how it works: the original oil is heated, and then cooled. When cooling, the oil separates into fractions, some with higher saturated fat content than others. The fractions with the highest levels of saturated fat are pooled together and are used for baking applications. Remember – the higher the saturated fat level, the more solid the fat.

2. Interesterified Oils. This is a bit more complicated. The process of inter-ester-ification causes a redistribution of the fatty acids inside a fat molecule. Fatty acids are the building blocks of all fats. The rearrangement changes the melting point of the fat. There have not been sufficient studies on the health effects of intereseterified oils.

3. Fully Hydrogenated Oils. See our post on full hydrogenation here.

Our recommendation when you see these oils in product ingredient lists – choose another product.

  • rubicon bill

    Good advice!

  • GiGi Eats Celebrities

    The words are scary looking enough!!!!

    • Kate

      “scary looking words”? Seriously? This is ignorance at it’s best and the exact type of behaviour that this app was designed to combat. I had an uncle that lectured me on the dangers of L-ascorbic acid and how I needed to read labels to make sure that they only listed Vitamin C. You must be him.

      • GiGi Eats Celebrities

        So you’re saying that hydrogenated oils are not scary and that people should eat them all the time………….?


    Will Fooducate be alerting us about the inclusion of these oils in products when we scan items that contain them?

    • Fooducate

      We have been, ever since our app launched.

      • HAIHAU

        That’s good to know! I know trans-fat sends up a red flag, but it’s great to hear that these alternatives are flagged as well. Thanks, Fooducate.

  • Scientific Venus Festhead

    What are trans fats

  • BG

    Saturated fat is the best fat to consume. Fooducate has to get educated to educate people. But it’s not too late. Take a look at this video

    • BG

      I’m not referring to trans fat of course. But saturated fat in butter and lard are not something to avoid, at all, as it is stated.

  • knittingrammy

    Saturated fats are bad???? Really? Back to the research I think. …..

    • Josh

      Yes! Saturated fats are good!!

    • knittingrammy

      Josh… I dislike that sarcasm is so hard to convey in writing! LOL

  • Josh

    Saturated fats are actually good for you! We need to go back to the traditional fats. Like butter and lard! You’re body needs fat to operate properly. We need saturated fats in our diet!

    • Mer

      You’d be more credible if you knew the difference between ‘your’ & ‘you’re’

  • Elizabeth Volkmer

    I’ve seen products with “fractionated coconut oil” and had NO idea what it was…..its a little better than trans fats, but still bad

  • Nunya

    Use coconut oil when u bake. It is solid at room temp and although it has sat fat, it also contains good fats and has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. I also use it on toast in place of butter. It has that nice “mouth feel” that you get with butter and lard. Good for your pets too.