Due For An Oil Change?

Fat provides many useful and functional properties, yet fat—especially trans fat—remains a controversial subject.

Fat is an essential nutrient that provides energy (nine calories per gram), Vitamin E and two essential fatty acids: linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). In addition, fat helps produce hormones and carry the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

In cooking, fat adds texture and flavor. In baking, fat tenderizes, moisturizes, holds air and affects shape and color (browning). Fat also conducts heat, lubricates foods, seals in moisture (e.g., basting) and prevents sauces from curdling.

In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine advised adults to limit fat intake to 20% to 35% of total daily calories with more unsaturated fats and as little saturated fats and “trans fats” (hydrogenated oils) as possible. Understanding the types of fats and their food sources can help you develop more healthful menus, guide customers’ choices and help them address health concerns.

Types of fats: All fats contain about 120 calories and 14 grams of fat per tablespoon. Fats are classified by the predominant type: saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Here’s a summary of their possible health benefits and risks:

Saturated fat raises total and “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol to increase risk of heart disease and certain cancers (e.g., breast, colon). Saturated fat, usually solid at room temperature, has a greater effect on LDLs than dietary cholesterol (found only in animal foods). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) advises limiting saturated fat to 7% or less of total daily calories. Examples include butter, lard, solid vegetable shortening, meat, whole milk, coconut, palm and palm kernel oils.

Some recent research suggests palm and coconut oils may not raise blood cholesterol as was once believed. But, more research is needed. Melting butter or stick margarine won’t reduce saturated fat. When cooled, these fats become solid again.

Monounsaturated fat (MUFA), when substituted for saturated fat, reduces total and LDL-cholesterol and may boost “good” (high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol slightly. MUFA may reduce risk of heart disease and stroke and help treat diabetes and hypertension. Examples include olive oil (highest in MUFA), canola oil (lowest in saturated fat), peanut, rice bran, almond and hazelnut oil, avocado, most nuts and tub margarines.

Olive oil, rich in antioxidants like polyphenols, may also reduce risk of rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer (e.g., breast, colon). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a food label health claim for olive oil stating that two tablespoons a day (in place of a similar amount of saturated fat) may reduce risk of heart disease due to MUFA.

Monounsaturated oils may be healthier for cooking than polyunsaturated oils which are more susceptible to oxidation (cell damage that can lead to cancer or heart disease), especially when heated to high temperatures (e.g., frying) for prolonged time. Reheating frying oil is harmful, too.

Polyunsaturated fat (PUFA), when substituted for saturated fat, lowers total and LDL-cholesterol more than MUFA does. There are two types: omega-6 and omega-3 fats. The latter may boost immunity and help prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, inflammation (marker for heart disease) and blood clots. Omega-3s may also relieve rheumatoid arthritis and reduce high blood triglycerides and blood pressure.

Excess omega-6 fats compared to the amount of omega-3s may promote heart disease, cancer and inflammation (e.g., arthritis). Omega-6 fats include safflower and sunflower oils (both also available as MUFA), soybean, sesame, corn, cottonseed and grape seed oils, mayonnaise, margarine and salad dressings. Omega-3 fats are found in fatty fish (oils) like salmon, sardines, tuna, swordfish and mackerel, flaxseed, soybeans, walnuts, wheat germ and their oils, and canola oil (MUFA).

Trans-fats: Trans-fats are PUFA that are chemically altered to become harder (more saturated) for stability and longer shelf life. They have higher melting points and thus are more stable for frying. Trans-fats act like saturated fat by raising total and LDL-cholesterol, but also reduce HDLs. Trans-fats may raise risk for heart disease, diabetes, macular degeneration, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Look for trans-fats as “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils on food labels. By January 1, 2006, manufacturers must start listing trans fat content on food labels. Trans-fats are found in some margarines, butter, meat, dairy, peanut butter, popcorn, candy bars, crackers, chips, fried foods and baked goods (e.g., cookies, donuts).

It’s estimated that trans-fats supply only 2%-4% of our daily calories compared to 12% from saturated fats. But, trans-fat intake may be higher and more detrimental to health than saturated fat. So cook and bake with “trans-free” margarines or liquid vegetable oils low in saturated fat (e.g., canola, olive, soybean, corn or safflower).

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
coffee senior living

From Keurig Green Mountain.

Healthcare foodservice represents the perfect environment for serving coffee. For the time-crunched staff, family and friends visiting patients, and seniors craving a treat, snack, or pick-me-up, coffee is considered a valuable amenity.

What’s more, purchasing beverages away from home is a popular habit. According to Technomic’s 2016 Beverage report, consumers average 3.6 drink purchases per week from foodservice outlets. And coffee is one of the most popular beverage options— Technomic’s 2016 Snacking Occasion report found 61% of consumers say...

Industry News & Opinion

South Valley Preparatory School in Albuquerque, N.M., has launched a range of healthy eating initiatives to combat obesity, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

The initiatives are in response to a State of Obesity report that stated that nearly a quarter of 10- to 17-year-olds in New Mexico were overweight or obese in 2016. The school banned junk food on campus during school hours for both students and staff, and offers healthy seasonal meals in its cafeteria. Students also take weekly trips to local farms to get an inside look at where their food comes from.

While the school...

Industry News & Opinion

Food delivery company Good Uncle is expanding to 15 college campuses this fall, The Daily Orange reports.

The company plans to grow along the East Coast and is looking at opening at schools such as George Washington University, Pennsylvania State University, Villanova University and American University. Good Uncle hopes to open at 50 to 100 campuses by 2019.

Starting as a delivery-only kitchen in 2016, Good Uncle partners with local restaurants to recreate their popular dishes and then deliver them to college students. The company offers free delivery, no delivery minimum...

Ideas and Innovation
wahoo tacos

School lunch is heating up. As expectations rise in the noncommercial sector, the old-fashioned cafeteria has become a hot topic. Political pressure on schools has seesawed over the past eight years, and nutritional regulations on items like sodium and whole grains have been overhauled (and back again). Meanwhile, students, parents, teachers, administrators and policymakers are demanding more healthfulness and better taste from school meals, often for the same cost.

Yet the industry’s best are dedicated to getting better, even while looking to the future with caution. “There’s not...

FSD Resources