The Redefine Reports
Frythier: Oil change.
What is at stake with the move to healthier oils?
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Human beings need fat in their diet. It is major source of energy and is vital for growth, healthy skin and metabolism. Fat also helps the body absorb vitamins, like A, D, E and K. Finally, it gives food taste and helps you feel full. One of the main sources of fat in our diet is oil. We take a look at the shift to healthier oils in food manufacturing and the challenges it creates.
Are all fats the same?
No. Medical research has shown that some kinds of fats, like saturated fats and trans fats in particular, contribute to obesity and heart disease.
What are unhealthy fats?
Not all fats are the same. Medical research has shown that saturated fats and trans fats in particular contribute to obesity and heart disease.
What are trans fats?
Trans fats are created during food processing in a process called hydrogenation. It increases oil stability, which gives food a longer shelf life and makes fryers more efficient. Trans fats increase LDL (bad) cholesterol and decrease HDL (good) cholesterol.
What are saturated fats?
Saturated fats are mainly derived from animal products and are in butter, solid shortening and lard. But they also are found in some tropical oils, such as coconut and palm oil. Saturated fats raise total and LDL cholesterol levels.
When did the move to healthier fats start?
Over the past decade or so, food authorities, such as the Food and Drug Administration, have recommended replacing unhealthy fats with vegetable oils such as corn, canola, olive, safflower, soybean and sunflower. To this end, governments began changing regulations.
What are the challenges?
Replacing trans fats with healthier oils is tricky, especially for fried foods. It presents challenges that Cargill’s broad scope of expertise can help overcome.
The trade-off for healthier oil is often a decrease in stability (that is why oils were hydrogenated to begin with). Therefore, unhydrogenated oils, though seen as healthier, are not necessarily the best choice for frying applications. The more polyunsaturated (healthier) the oil is, the more susceptible it is to oxidation.
Some products, like breaded/battered products, absorb a lot of oil during frying. The lost oil has to be replenished in the fryer; this is called turnover. It is essential to balance frying time, temperature and turnover so that the oil in the fryer does not need to be replaced more frequently than is necessary.
The unsaturated fatty acids commonly found in trans fat-free oils break down rapidly during frying and baking. These acids reform as a solid called polymerised oil, which can cause costly downtime for equipment and more frequent cleaning.
Due to the strong demand for healthier oils, ensuring a continuous supply is essential. Cargill manage all the aspects of the supply chain from farming all the way to oil delivery. We look at customer demand and contract the acreage with farmers that we need to have them grow to supply this demand.
Practically speaking, low linoleic and high oleic oils are the best choices for healthier frying. They support zero trans fat and low fat claims, and both have good stability and functionality. To overcome the technical challenges of using these oils, however, expertise in oil blending is required to find the right nutritional profile, functional performance, and a pleasing taste and texture.
And what about taste?
Fat is a key factor in determining a product’s taste. Just try frying eggs in olive oil – healthy yes, but tasty no. So when trying to “improve” a product by making it healthier, customers’ taste expectations should always be front of mind. For example, the fat-free craze of the late 1980s and early 1990s fizzled out because products simply didn’t taste good. That is why Cargill brings together its expertise in oils, texturising, interesterification, fractionation and additives to help you redefine your oil blends for a wide range of food applications.