Oils and shortening 101


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What is the difference between fat, oil and shortening?

Fat is a natural lipid material (either animal or vegetable triglyceride) that is more or less solid at room temperatures. Oil is a similar material that is liquid at room temperature. Shortening is a semi-solid fat or oil that is commonly used in baking or frying. The name comes from the ability to tenderize or “shorten” gluten complexes in bakery doughs.

What do fats and oils do in food products?

Fats and oils are the heat exchange medium for shallow or deep frying.  They provide lubricity, aid in pleasant mouth feel and can provide texture, body and structure.  They also provide oil soluble flavor and/or color and are an excellent source of energy.

What are the primary kinds of fats in our diets and how do they differ?

The primary kinds of fats in our diets are saturated and unsaturated, however several subtypes – polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans fats – are frequently referenced for their significance in the human diet.

Polyunsaturated Oils
Polyunsaturated oils are liquid at room temperature and in the refrigerator.  Examples include safflower, sesame, soy, corn and sunflower-seed oils.

Their chemical makeup displays two or more double bonds.

Polyunsaturated fats can be divided into two types: Omega-6 and Omega-3. Omega-6 are essential fatty acids our bodies need but can’t make. Omega-3 fats are also essential fatty acids our bodies need but can’t make and, especially from fish sources, may have potential health benefits.

Monounsaturated Oils
Monunsaturated oils are liquid at room temperature but may start to solidify at refrigerator temperatures. Examples include olive and canola oils. Their chemical makeup displays one double bond.

Saturated Fats
Saturated fatty acids are usually solid at room temperature. In general, saturated fats are found in high-fat cheese, high-fat cuts of meat, whole-fat milk and cream, butter, ice cream, palm and coconut oils.

Their chemical makeup displays no double bonds.

Trans Fats
Trans fats result from adding hydrogen to vegetable oils.  During food processing, the oils undergo a chemical process called hydrogenation that changes a liquid oil to a more solid and saturated form.

 

To make the claim of 0 grams of trans fat per serving, how much trans fat can be in the oil?

A food product must contain less than 0.5 grams trans fat per serving to make the “0” trans fat claim.  Refer to the chart below to see how much trans can be in the oil and still achieve 0 grams of trans fat per serving.