The naturally beneficial effects of coconut oil can be destroyed by hydrogenation, a common industrial process employed by many cooking oil manufacturers. Hydrogenation is essentially a way of making oils more commercially viable by extending its shelf life and producing a butter-like consistency and mouth-feel. It is not only coconut oil which is being hydrogenated. Virtually all vegetable oils can be subjected to hydrogenation.
What is hydrogenation?
In hydrogenation, heat and hydrogen molecules are introduced into the fatty acids of the oil in such a way that the natural cis chemical configuration is transformed into trans, producing trans fats. Trans fats are thus synthetic and not natural fats, a product of industrial tweaking– all for the sake of profits and at the expense of our health. Hydrogenation destroys the healthy oils and cancels out whatever health benefits coconut oil has.
What are trans fats?
You may have known trans fats as the fats banned in most countries. Banned it should be since they are linked to a long list of diseases such as cardiovascular problems, hypertension, elevated bad cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, Alzheimer’s Disease, depression and even cancer.
The negative effects of trans fats on our bodies is due to the fact that trans fats are not natural and are thus not metabolized by our bodies in a normal way. Trans fats also stay solid at body temperature and are thus difficult to digest and break down.
One of the reasons why coconut oil has been severely maligned is because of epidemiological studies involving hydrogenated coconut oil which has trans fats. Had they used virgin coconut oil or natural RBD oil, researchers would have found out the many health benefits of coconut oil.
How do you avoid consuming trans fats?
The only way to avoid the consumption of trans fats is to stop using hydrogenated oils and food products containing hydrogenated oils. Most coconut cooking oils in the market are refined, bleached and deodorized or RBD oils. RBD oils are not necessarily hydrogenated. As I have explained in one of my previous articles, RBD oil is simply coconut oil which has been processed so as to remove the coconut odor and yellow color of dried coconut meat from which it is sourced. RBD oils are still healthy oils since it still has all of the lauric acids intact. However, there are RBD oils which are hydrogenated, just as there are corn oils, canola oils and other vegetable oils which are hydrogenated as well.
How do you know the oil you are using is hydrogenated?
Only by reading labels– fine prints included—can you spot hydrogenated oils. If you see the any of the terms partially hydrogenated, hydrogenated and shortening on the label, avoid it like the plague. Even if it says “zero in trans fats” in front, if you see the term hydrogenated or shortening at the back, that oil has, in fact, trans fats. So do yourself a favor now. Carefully read the labels of your cooking oils and stick to the brands which are not hydrogenated.
A word about VCO:
Virgin coconut oil is not hydrogenated. It is made from fresh coconuts and the oil is expressed without heat or chemical treatment. The natural, amazing lauric acids are not destroyed in any way.
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