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Is Vegetable Shortening Healthy?

Vegetable shortening is a key ingredient in many recipes, as it provides the fat required to hold baked goods together and you can use it for frying. Although vegetable shortening can be helpful for cooking, that doesn't mean it's a healthy food. Vegetable shortening offers little more than a large dose of fat with few other nutrients, so it is best consumed in moderation.

High in Calories

Vegetable shortening is calorie-dense -- just one 1 tablespoon providing 110 calories. This amount comprises 5.5 percent of the calories in a standard 2,000-calorie diet. It's higher in calories than many other fatty foods, such as peanut butter, which provides 85 calories per tablespoon, High calorie foods can be helpful when gaining weight, but can sabotage your weight loss efforts if you're dieting. It would take almost a half hour of brisk walking to burn off the calories in a single tablespoon of shortening.

Low in Nutrients

Vegetable shortening does not provide any protein, a nutrient your body uses to build and repair muscle and other tissues. It also doesn't serve as a source of any essential vitamins or minerals. It's only vitamin content is 0.8 milligrams of vitamin E -- a mere 4 percent of the vitamin E each day.

Trans Fat

Vegetable shortening is a solid fat made from vegetable oils, so it is rich in fat. Of the 13 grams of total fat found in shortening, 3 grams comes from saturated fat. However, shortening undergoes a chemical process, called hydrogenation, to make it solid at room temperature, and this process leads to the generation of trans fats. Trans fat is the most harmful type of fat you can consume. It boosts your harmful blood cholesterol levels while reducing the level of good cholesterol in your bloodstream. Ideally, you diet should not contain any trans fats, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Avoiding Shortening

Many of the foods that rely on shortening for texture -- such as pastries and pies -- should make only occasional appearances in your diet. Not only do they have all the nutritional downsides associated with shortening, they can also contain large amounts of sugar. Select recipes that call for healthier fats, such as canola oil, or use applesauce in place of fat in your cooking for a healthier meal.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.