Shortening is a kind of fat that is used for cooking and baking typically in American kitchens and has been used since early 1900s. However, now its use has been fallen out of favor due to its high trans-fat content. The term shortening refers to any kind of fat that is usually solid at room temperature like butter, margarine and lard.
It can be made from animal fat or vegetable oil like palm oil, soybean oil which are liquid at room temperature. It is passed through a process of hydrogenation which makes it solid. It also makes it more stable to be kept at room temperature and shelf stable. It is used for baking, and frying.
This article explains everything you need to know about shortening and should you be consuming it?
Shortening is not the healthiest fat to consume. Unlike butter, which contains only80% fat, shortening contains 100% fat. It also makes it very high in calories with no protein or carbs and very little vitamins and minerals.13 grams of shortening, 1 table spoon of shortening contains the following:
Total fat 12.8 grams
Saturated fat 3.2 grams
Unsaturated fat 8.9grams
Trans-fats 1.7 grams
Vitamin k 8% of the RDI
However, due to the recent concerns about Trans fats and its harmful effects on health, many shortenings are made trans-fat free.
Since the invention of hydrogenation process, shortening has been made by hydrogenating liquid vegetable oil. It involves bombarding liquid oil with hydrogen atoms which turns the unsaturated oil into saturated by changing its structure. When the oil is fully hydrogenated, the molecules of oil are packed tighter together which gives it a solid structure ideal for baking. When oil is partially hydrogenated, it is somewhat soft and creamy.
Unfortunately partial hydrogenation also creates artificial Trans fats, which has been linked to serious health problems. It raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol levels, it also hardens the arteries and inflammation, which increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Furthermore, Trans fats also make it difficult for your cells to communicate, affecting the health of nervous system and brain impaired. When buying shortening, always make sure to check the ingredient list to know if it contains Trans-fats. Moreover shortening is highly processed making it an unhealthy option for baking and cooking, there are some great alternatives to shortening, which are given below:
Butter is one preferred alternative to shortening. It is solid at room temperature. Many people hesitate to use butter in their food, because it contains even higher amount of saturated fats then shortening does.
In the past high saturated fat content was linked to heart problems but recent reviews and studies have not found any such connection.
Investigations even show that naturally present trans-fat in dairy might even aid metabolic and heart health. Clarified butter is a great substitute to shortening because it contains very little water and its structure closely resembles that of shortening.
b.Coconut oil or palm oil shortenings:
Unrefined palm or coconut oil is solid at room temperature, which makes it perfect alternative for shortening. Moreover, many brands now sell alternative made from coconut or palm oil which make it perfect for baking, and can be used at 1:1 ratio for shortening. Coconut oil has some health benefits too but has some strong smell and palm oil is harmful for environment.
Shortening is highly processed and also contains Trans-fats with no nutrients and high calories. The new formulation of shortening that is trans-fat free, but no investigations have been made to find out if its use is safe or not. It is best to use them as little as possible and opt for the substitute options like coconut oil, palm oil or butter for baking goods.
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