Soybean oil is processed and sold mainly as a vegetable oil, while the remaining soybean meal is typically used as animal feed. It is also the primary source of biodiesel in the country, making up 80 percent of domestic production.
Lecithin is a product extracted from soybean oil, and it is a natural emulsifier and lubricant used in many foods and commercial and industrial applications. It helps keep the chocolate and cocoa butter in a candy bar from separating, and is used in pharmaceutical products and protective coatings.
Soybean oil is commonly used to make mayonnaise, salad dressing, margarine, and non-dairy coffee creamers. It is a usual feature of processed foods, which is where the problem begins: processed foods are perhaps the most damaging part of most people’s diet, contributing to the occurrence of disease and poor health.
Partially hydrogenated soybean oil is one of the primarily culprits in processed foods, alongside high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Used alone or in combination, they spell trouble for your wellness. But why is there a need to hydrogenate oil? One of the most common answers you hear is that it prolongs the oil’s shelf life. For example, raw butter is likely to go rancid far more quickly than margarine does.
Hydrogenation – where hydrogen gas is forced into the oil at high pressure – also makes the oil more stable and increases it melting point, allowing it to be useful in various food processing methods that use high temperatures.
In the late 1990s, experts started to see and confirm the adverse health effects of this chemical alteration. Beware, though, that “fully hydrogenated” is different from “partially hydrogenated.” The latter contains trans fat, while the former does not. But this does not make fully hydrogenated soybean oil a healthful choice.
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