Why Is Hydrogenated Oil Used in Baking Mixes?

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Baking mixes are all-purpose products originally designed to produce biscuits without too much work. You can also use them to make a variety of other baked goods like pretzels, cookies, quick breads and pie crusts. Most baking mixes include partially or fully hydrogenated oils to improve texture and shelf life. These oils might be implicated in cardiovascular problems, however. Choosing alternative products or making your own baking mix could be the right option to protect your health without giving up your favorite baked goods.

How Hydrogenated Oils Work

  • Hydrogenated oils include more hydrogen atoms than their non-hydrogenated counterparts do. This causes the oil to be solid at room temperature and reduces the risk of rancidity. Manufacturers use hydrogenated vegetable oils in products like baking mixes to keep them from spoiling on the shelf. The solid nature of these oils also produces a lighter, flakier texture in biscuits and other breads.

Trans Fat Health Risks

  • Hydrogenating vegetable oils causes them to contain between 15 and 25 percent trans fatty acids, but eating trans fats present a major health risk, according to MayoClinic.com. Eating these fats can lower your levels of HDL, or "good" cholesterol while increasing your levels of LDL or "bad" cholesterol. The risk is greatest from foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils. Fully hydrogenated oils are harder and contain relatively little trans fat, but are a source of cholesterol.

Choosing Healthy Products

  • Not all baking mixes contain hydrogenated vegetable oil. Some mixes omit the oil entirely and require you to add it during the cooking process. Others, often labeled as "heart healthy," contain oils high in monounsaturated fats such as corn, sunflower, soybean or canola. This can affect the texture of the finished product, since the oil ingredients are liquid at room temperature. Other products use palm or coconut oils, which are solid at room temperature but contain higher levels of saturated fat.

Commercial Baking Mix Alternatives

  • Making your own baking mix is another option if you are cost-conscious or worried about the ingredients in commercial products. Homemade baking mixes usually include flour, salt, dry milk and baking powder. Dry versions are shelf-stable but require you to add the fat or oil when you bake. Wet versions include non-hydrogenated oils and you must refrigerate them. The primary benefits of making your own include a lower overall cost and the ability to include specialty ingredients like whole grains.

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