Chewing the Fat

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Have you ever wondered which fat is the healthiest to use when baking?

To be honest, there has been so much talk about good fats and bad fats that I have a hard time keeping them straight.  I’m familiar with the  health benefits associated with using olive oil, but one website I found clearly stated that heating the olive oil did not give you the same health benefits as using it straight from the bottle.  Hmmm…

I have to admit I am typically a label reader if the products are side by side. But if the oil is in one isle and the butter is in a cooler in another isle then I don’t generally compare the two.

I usually bake with butter, margarine, vegetable oil, and vegetable shortening.  A lot of what I bake with is based on what it is that I’m baking.  For example, if I’m making a pie, I’m a die-hard vegetable shortening kind of gal.  Cookies, I prefer margarine, although sometimes I use butter depending on the type of cookie.  Cakes, um… I honestly think oils make a moister cake.  

So what’s good for you in the fat department and what’s not? I decided to do a little research and see if I could sort this mess out. 

First let me share this – none of the fats (surprise) have any significant nutritional values, or should I say, very little if any. 

Secondly, I found all kinds of warnings to  stay away from hydrogenated oils and shortenings that contain trans fats.  Pure oils and shortenings were recommended.  This is something to take into consideration when shopping. 

I got a wee bit nervous at the thought of giving up my pie baking so I looked a little farther and found that all of Crisco’s shortening products are now trans fat free and cholesterol free – yea!  I also found that many margarines are noted for having trans fats in them.  I recommend this article written by the Cleveland Clinic  to help clarify that  issue.

Not all fats are bad for you either.  This is where olive oil gets some recognition.  For a better explanation of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats see the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.

My conclusion after all of this?  It is something that you may already know.  Butter seems to be the worst choice of the five for you.   It’s super high in saturated fat and has cholesterol.

Butter (1 tbsp.) 102 calories. 11.52g total fat, 7.294g saturated fat, 0.432g polyunsaturated fat, 2.985g monounsaturated fat, and 31mg of cholesterol. 

What I really couldn’t get over is the amount of calories found in each one of the fats I looked at.  The highest was vegetable oil which contained 120 calories in a 1 tablespoon serving – wow!  Olive oil came in second place with 119 calories per tablespoon.

I guess it stands to reason that non-fat yogurt and applesauce might be the best alternative to replace fats when baking.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you have a secret to limiting fats when you bake?  I’d love to hear it.