For decades, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil has been the go-to cooking oil for restaurants and homeowners alike. That is no longer the case. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, research began to crop up that linked trans fats to increased cholesterol, obesity and heart disease. Now, customers are demanding healthful cooking oil options and across the nation are looking for trans-fat free alternatives.
Types of Fat in Cooking Oils
When it comes to cooking oils, the terms can get a little confusing, and it’s hard to know which fat types are good and which ones are bad. Here is a list of the fats found in cooking oils and how they affect human health:
- Monounsaturated Fat. This is a good type of fat because it can reduce your bad cholesterol (LDL) while increasing your good cholesterol (HDL) levels. Monounsaturated fat can also reduce the amount of triglycerides in your blood; triglycerides are linked to diabetes and heart disease.
- Polyunsaturated Fat. This fat also decreases LDL levels while increasing HDL levels. One important type of polyunsaturated fat is Omega-3, which is found in fish, and is an essential fat for heart health.
- Partially Hydrogenated Fats (Trans Fats). Trans fats are believed to increase bad cholesterol LDL while lowering good cholesterol levels. This leads to an increased risk of heart disease.
- Saturated Fat. Saturated fats are found in animal products. They can lower good cholesterol levels and raise bad cholesterol. The World Health Organization recommends that people limit the amount of saturated fats in their diet.
Trans Fat Free Cooking Oils
The cooking oil manufacturers have responded to consumer demand for more healthful, trans fat free cooking oils. Now, restaurant owners have a range of new oils to choose from that make fried foods tastier and actually good for you.
|Oil||Fat Type||Flavor||Health Characteristics|
|Canola||Monounsaturated||Mild flavor||Low in saturated fat.|
Helps maintain healthy cholesterol.
|Corn||Vegetable||Light taste||Helps maintain healthy cholesterol.|
|Grape Seed||Vegetable||Light taste||Helps maintain healthy cholesterol.|
|Olive||Monounsaturated||Bland to very strong||High in antioxidants.|
Helps maintain healthy cholesterol.
|Peanut*||Rich, nutty taste||Contains an antioxidant that supports heart health.|
|Refined Safflower||Polyunsaturated||Flavorless||Helps maintain healthy cholesterol.|
|Sunflower||Polyunsaturated||Bland||Helps maintain healthy cholesterol.|
* Not recommended for restaurants serving customers with peanut allergies.
**Table Source: “Factor 2: Selecting the Right Oil,” Fit Frying, (accessed December 27, 2010).
Trans Fat Free Oil Cost VS. Lifespan
One potential problem with trans fat free oil is the cost. On average, trans fat free cooking oil can cost 30% more than partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fat oils). However, with proper fryer maintenance, the oil can last up to 75% longer before it has to be changed. to 75% longer with proper fryer maintenance. Certain commercial fryers, like Frymaster’s electric fryers, can actually increase the cooking oil life, too.
Legislation Against Trans Fats
Currently, California is the only state that has banned trans fat oils in all of its restaurants. However, the battle is on to ban trans fats on a national scale. With the increasing consumer interest in healthful fried foods, concern over childhood obesity, it’s only a matter of time before trans fats are no longer allowed in restaurants. The best thing for restaurants to do is transition away from trans fats now before it becomes a requirement.