Vegetable shortening is made through a process called hydrogenation, which transforms liquid vegetable oil into solid vegetable fat. Often used in baking, vegetable shortening adds a flaky texture to foods such as pie crust and pastry shells. While the shortening does supply two essential vitamins, and unsaturated fats, it doesn’t supply anything in the way of other essential nutrients such as protein, fiber, iron or vitamin C. It also has some important drawbacks to consider.
A 1-tablespoon serving of vegetable shortening contains 0.78 milligrams of vitamin E. That’s about 5 percent of the 15 milligrams you should aim to get in your daily diet. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect your cells from damage by free radicals, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center. This essential vitamin plays a role in the production of red blood cells and aids your body in making proper use of vitamin K.
One tablespoon of vegetable shortening provides 6.8 micrograms of vitamin K. That translates to about 8 percent of the 90 micrograms of vitamin K women need each day and about 6 percent of the 120 micrograms men need on a daily basis. Vitamin K is most notable for it’s role in properly clotting blood, but it has a small part in keeping bones healthy, as well, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. A vitamin K deficiency can cause excessive bleeding, but this type of deficiency is quite rare in the United States.
A tablespoon of vegetable shortening contains 12.8 grams of fat, but about 9 grams of that is in the form of unsaturated fats. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, unsaturated fats are good for your heart because they help lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. Making the majority of your fat intake in the form of unsaturated fats is recommended for protecting the health of your heart.
Despite the vitamin E, vitamin K and heart-healthy unsaturated fat content of vegetable shortening, it has two major nutritional drawbacks. One is the 3.2 grams of saturated fat present in one tablespoon of the shortening. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, limiting your intake of saturated fat to 7 percent or less of your total caloric intake can drastically cut your risk of heart disease. Depending on how many calories you consume each day, that tablespoon of vegetable shortening can be a significant amount of that limit. Even more dangerous is the 1.7 grams of trans fat the tablespoon of vegetable shortening contains. Aim to completely eliminate trans fats from your diet because they raise bad cholesterol levels, lower good cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease, reports the Harvard School of Public Health.
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