Trans Fats have been all over the news since June 16, 2015, when the FDA declared Trans Fats unsafe for human consumption and ruled to BAN Trans Fats from manufactured foods by 2018. Food manufacturers have 3 years to remove all partially hydrogenated oil (PHO's) from their foods.
While you may know that Trans Fats are BAD for you, you may not know WHY. Here's 5 things you need to know about Trans Fats in 5 Quick Facts.
5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TRANS FATS:
1) WHAT ARE TRANS FATS? Trans Fat is short for Trans Fatty Acid, which is an unsaturated fatty acid. There are two types of Trans Fats: natural and artificial.
Natural Trans Fats are produced in the guts of some animals (like cows and lamb) and occur in food made from these animals such as milk and meat products.
Artificial Trans Fats are most common in margarines and manufactured cooking oils due to the hydrogenation process.
This short video offers an easy to understand explanation of how oil is hydrogenated:
2) WHY IS OIL HYDROGENATED? Hydrogenated oils are used in food manufacturing because they have a much longer shelf life due to the hardening of the oil through hydrogenation. This allows food manufacturers to lower production cost and minimize waste. The hydrogenated oils also give processed food taste and texture and acts as a preservative to extend the shelf life of the finished food product.
Sounds great, right? Not exactly. The Trans Fats act like saturated fats (the BAD fats) and are directly linked to serious health concerns.
3) HOW ARE TRANS FATS BAD FOR ME? Trans fats raise your bad cholesterol levels (LDL Cholesterol) and lower your good cholesterol levels (HDL Cholesterol). The LDL Cholesterol, the BAD cholesterol, is so bad because it directly contributes to the development of plaque build up in the arteries. The plaque hard coating makes the arteries less flexible (atherosclerosis), and clotting can occur causing heart attack or stroke. This build up also narrows the arteries causing less blood to pump through the body and conditions such as peripheral artery disease can occur, which is when the supply of blood to the legs is narrowed.
Heart Disease, Stroke, Atherosclerosis, Peripheral Artery Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, Insulin Dependence.
4) WHAT TYPES OF FOODS CONTAIN TRANS FATS? In 2006, FDA regulated that for manufacturers MUST list Trans Fats on nutrition labels, however there is a catch...Only if the Trans Fats is greater than .5 grams per serving. The problem is that many manufactured foods are deceptively labeled advertising "0 Grams Trans Fats" when they do contain Trans Fats. Since many people consume more than one serving size and eat many items in a day that also contain hidden Trans Fats, the average person is consuming multiple grams of Trans Fats in a day not even knowing!
The biggest culprits containing Trans Fats include:
- Margarine and Shortening.
- Baked Goods. Donuts, cakes, pies, muffins, cookies, etc.
- Fried Foods. This includes french fries, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, etc. from fast food AND family restaurants depending on the type of frier oil used.
- Prepackaged Snacks. Chips (potato, tortilla, etc), crackers, popcorn, etc.
- Coffee Creamers.
- Canned Frosting.
- Frozen Pizza.
5) HOW CAN I AVOID TRANS FATS? The FDA has required that food manufacturers remove added trans fats from their foods by 2018. To minimize Trans Fats:
- Read Nutrition Labels. Check out the ingredient list and avoid anything that contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.
- Bake From Scratch. Rather than buying store bought baked goods, bake at home using quality ingredients and healthy oils such as coconut, olive oil, or clarified butter.
- Skip the Fried Foods. Avoid fried foods on restaurant menus.
The best way to avoid Trans Fats all together is to eat whole, natural foods. Following a mostly plant-based diet, with lean proteins, and healthy fats is the best way to minimize Trans Fat consumption.