As far as fat is concerned, nutritionists and health officials agree that dietary fats are necessary for good health. They provide energy, support cell growth, protect our organs, help the body absorb certain nutrients and contribute to satiety.
According to a study published in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, consumer knowledge about fat is "conflicted, including which fats have health benefits; 59% of respondents think fat should be avoided, 65% think a low-fat diet is a healthy diet and 38% claim to avoid foods containing fat."
However, concerns regarding fats are sure to dispel, as consumers learn more about the relationship between fat and health. Without fat, we'd lose our principle source of the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K, as well as the essential fatty acids (EFAs) linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which are polyunsaturated omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. These EFAs are harvested from fats in the diet, like soybean, corn and safflower oils, walnuts and flaxseed.
While EFAs can go wanting in our diets, often, consumers receive more than enough saturates through the consumption of meats, dairy and eggs. In fact, 25%-35% of an adult's calories should come from fats with less than 10% from saturated fats.
Specifically, in the baked goods category, product designers are finding ways to reduce saturated and manmade trans fats in baked goods. These fats, solid at room temperature, contribute to the desirable texture of baked treats.
Butter, lard and solid shortening are the gold-standard options for baked goods, but are loaded with saturated fats and waylay good health. However, replacing these solid fats with liquid, healthier fats can be a challenge.
One solution is to use tropical oils, which are solid at room temperature. Palm oil, for example, is a good option functionally, but the structure it provides baked goods comes with more saturates on the label. Other, healthier oils can serve as a base for shortenings. For example, 100% soybean oil is a liquid oil rich in polyunsaturated fats, and can be used in oil-based shortenings. Food product designers can also turn to fat replacement systems, some of which are drop-in solutions.
Further, commercial frying oilswhich are often exposed to air and oxidative stress in large industrial fryers, as well as high temperatures and the accumulation of crumbs from cooked foodsare falling under the health scope.
Polyunsaturated fats, such as soybean oil, corn oil and cottonseed oil, may be susceptible to an early demise, as they break down more quickly when exposed to air. Monounsaturated fats, like peanut oil, canola oil and sunflower oil, are slightly more stable. Saturated fatty acids breaks down the least quickly. Avoiding fats with trans fatty acids and using fats with less than 15% saturated fatty acid can minimize the degradation process.
For a closer look at healthier fatsand how they can be used in formulations and in foodserviceand to access a complete Buyer's Guide of fats and oils suppliers for the food industry, visit Food Product Design's Digital Issue Survival Guide: Fats & Oils.