What is hydrogenated chocolate? Is it really bad for your health? – 06/25/2022

You must have already eaten one. It has a different, more industrial flavor, and is often used in the crust of cakes and sweets. We are talking about hydrogenated chocolate, present in many desserts, but which can be a great villain for health.

In this food, the cocoa butter, found in traditional chocolate, is replaced by hydrogenated fats, obtained from a high-pressure physicochemical process that gives the liquid oils of vegetable origin – cotton, palm kernel, palm – consistency and pasty appearance. or coconut, babassu, corn, soy, sunflower, among others.

The hydrogenated fat added to chocolate favors handling in toppings and fillings for cakes and sweets, keeping it more stable, regardless of temperature variation.

With the addition, hydrogenated chocolate becomes cheaper and more versatile for culinary use, in confectionery and in ultra-processed products, such as stuffed cookies, cookies, syrups, ice cream, cake mixes and confectionery in general. In addition, the fat provides crispness, for example, in the formation of cones, in the case of bonbons, and extends the durability.

However, it loses its quality, flavor and health benefits, as well as the feeling of well-being, caused by serotonin that is stimulated when chocolate is consumed. “This type of fat does not exist in nature and there are many studies that point out that our body is not able to deal with this type of substance. Therefore, consumption is not recommended”, says Tatiana Martins Moreno, nutritionist at the Hospitals Network. Sao Camillo, SP.

Changed flavor and texture

Due to the absence of cocoa butter, the final flavor is altered, as well as the texture and the greasy appearance. “The taste is different. According to Abicab (Brazilian Association of the Chocolate, Cocoa, Peanuts, Candies and Derivatives Industry), products made with less than 25% cocoa are considered chocolate flavored sweets, not chocolate”, he says. Dark skinned.

According to Daniely Santos, resident nutritionist in clinical nutrition at the HC of UFPE (Hospital das Clínicas of the Federal University of Pernambuco), linked to the Ebserh Network (Empresa Brasileira de Serviços Hospitalares), as it is modified, there will be a residual that can resemble paraffin. That’s why it’s usually said that this chocolate has a candle flavor.

“The ideal is not to taste and, if you can choose, opt for another more natural one, from 70% cocoa. If it is not possible to select, the suggestion is to eat little”, guides Carolina Rodrigues, nutritionist and educator. in diabetes from the ADJ (Juvenile Diabetes Association). It is also necessary to pay attention to the daily amount of chocolate, which should not exceed 30 g.

The fat provides crunchiness, for example, in the formation of cones, in the case of bonbons

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Harms of trans fats

Considered trans fat, hydrogenated fat is associated with various disorders, such as diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis — the accumulation of fatty plaques in the arteries —, in addition to affecting the immune system and causing problems in bones and tendons.

The WHO (World Health Organization), in 2019, warned that at least 5 billion people around the world are at risk of developing diseases associated with the consumption of trans fats. According to the entity, the ingredient causes about 500,000 deaths each year.

Trans fat reduces levels of the good cholesterol, HDL, which protects the heart, and increases levels of the “bad” cholesterol, LDL, which can cause blood vessels to clog. Excessive intake is related to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart attack.

“People who already have changes in blood glucose levels, heart disease and dyslipidemia — altered cholesterol and triglycerides — should not consume this type of chocolate”, warns the ADJ nutritionist.

The substance interferes with the metabolism and absorption of fats. The nutritionist from the São Camilo Hospital Network also mentions the increase in insulin levels, related to type 2 diabetes and the decrease in the speed of immune responses.

Looking at the label

“Chocolate lovers should give preference to those that contain fewer ingredients and more natural sweeteners”, teaches Santos.

According to Rodrigues, the food industry needs to inform the labels if there is presence of hydrogenated chocolate. Chocolate-based preparations, having the words trans or hydrogenated, may be considered free or with minimal addition of cocoa or cocoa butter.

Therefore, it is crucial to pay attention to the components that appear at the beginning of the ingredient list on the label, as this indicates that they are in greater amounts in the composition. The product with the highest concentration of refined sugar and hydrogenated fat will be more harmful to health.

It is also recommended to avoid white chocolate, due to the excess of sugar. In good quality chocolates, the items that appear first come from cocoa, such as cocoa mass and cocoa butter, for example. “The less hydrogenated fat is ingested, the better it is for health”, emphasizes Moreno.

Sources: Carolina Rodriguesnutritionist and diabetes educator at ADJ (Juvenile Diabetes Association) Diabetes Brasil; Daniely Santosresident nutritionist in clinical nutrition at HC – UFPE (Hospital das Clínicas of the Federal University of Pernambuco), linked to the Ebserh Network (Brazilian Hospital Services Company); Tatiana Martins Morenonutritionist at the São Camilo Hospital Network, SP.

References: Abicab (Brazilian Association of Chocolate, Cocoa, Peanuts, Candies and Derivatives) and IDEC (Brazilian Institute for Consumer Protection).