People frequently wonder what is shortening, an ingredient commonly cited in bakery recipes. Shortening is 100% vegetable oil, usually made from soybean cottonseed oils that have been hydrogenated, until they became solid. Shortening resembles lard (pig fat), due to its white color and consistency, just like margarine.
Margarine is also hydrogenated oil, but it also contains water, artificial flavor and color, and it resembles butter. Controversy begins with the fact that partially hydrogenated vegetable oils contain trans fats, which are known to have adverse effects on humans. Margarines usually contain much lower levels of trans fats. Consuming trans fats increases the risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.
The best way to control and limit your personal trans fat consumption is to look for the amount of trans fats on the ingredient list on food packages. Lately, some shortening makers have been able to lower the level of trans fats to 0 g of trans fat per 12 g serving. The American Heart Association suggests limiting the amount of daily intake of trans fats to less than 1 percent of total daily calories.
Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, no more than 20 of those calories should come from trans fats. Trans fats also come naturally in dairy products like butterfat and in some meats like beef and lamb, although it’s not clear if these trans fats have the same bad effect as industrial fats. Traditional shortening doesn’t have any flavor, but lately, it can be found with a butter flavor. It’s also available in butter-like containers, including individual sticks, similar to butter and margarine.
Shortening’s main use is to make baked goods lighter; it also creates a better texture. Shortening is also used in frying and deep-frying.