Trans fats are a type of artificially produced unsaturated fats also known as hydrogenated fats, created by a chemical process that involves pumping hydrogen molecules into vegetable oils.
Food manufacturers use hydrogenated fats for making almost every product you can think of, since the vegetable oils that have been treated with this process have a much longer shelf life, remain solid at room temperature, act as flavor-enhancers and most importantly, they’re very, very cheap.
But there is a price to be paid for this too-good-to-be-true makeover: a diet high in trans fats has been found to directly increase the risk of developing many modern chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, arthritis and cancer by damaging the inner lining of your blood vessels, clogging the arteries, increasing bad cholesterol levels, increasing inflammation and stimulating insulin resistance.
An endless list of studies have proved the harmful effects of trans fats on our health and their lack of nutritional value and yet they are still found in large quantities in all processed products we consume on a daily basis.
Finally, the FDA decided to remove the ‘GRAS’ (Generally Recognized as Safe) status for trans fats and gave manufacturers a three-year period to remove all trans fats from their products. The war on trans fats may be over soon, but why wait for the manufacturers to make their products safer?
Discover the hidden trans fats in your diet and eliminate them right now – you are the only person responsible for your health and breaking up with these horrible empty calories is a crucial step for improving many aspects of it.
Here are 3 basic ways to limit your consumption of trans fats:
- Read the labels very carefully and choose products with zero trans fats content.
Food manufacturers have been required to include trans fat content information on food labels since 2006. Avoid all products that have “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” on the ingredients list.
- Avoid processed foods altogether and replace them with fresh whole foods.
Unfortunately, even if the label says the product is clean from trans fats, this may not be the case. Manufacturers will often disguise trans fats as something else to make the product appear healthier. To avoid this, include as much unprocessed, natural food as you can in your diet.
- Eat homemade meals instead of junk food.
There is no better way to control the ingredients list than to prepare your own food. When cooking, replace margarine with real butter and hydrogenated vegetable oils with high quality olive oil or coconut oil.
Products to avoid
All of the following products come with the same problem: misleading label information. Even when the label reads “0 grams of trans fats”, this can be a bit further from the truth. In case you didn’t know, manufacturers are legally allowed to list 0 grams if the trans fat content is under 0.5 grams, and this amount quickly adds up when you take into consideration that no one eats only cookie or candy. Put daily consumption of overly processed foods into the equation and you get heart disease as the final result.
Cakes, pies, cookies, biscuits and crackers
Most of these products are labeled as having “zero trans fats”, but they actually pack a lot of it. Store-bought desserts rely heavily on trans fats to provide their texture and enhanced flavor.
Some margarine manufacturers have completely removed trans fats from their products, but there are still brands that pack as much as 3 grams of trans fats per serving. Thread carefully.
Any frozen food can contain trans fats but this is especially true for frozen pizzas, which come with 1 gram of trans fats per slice.
Instead of buying the commercial microwavable version, which can have up to 5 grams of trans fats per serving, buy a bag of kernels and make your own popcorn the old school way.
Candy is an especially great source of trans fat and simple sugars, while providing zero nutritional benefits. Candies with creamy fillings are known to contain at least 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.
Almost all doughnuts contain unhealthy trans fats, and that amount increases in frosted or cream-filled varieties.
Fried fast foods
If you care about your health, avoid deep-fried foods at all costs. They are traditionally made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and this won’t change anytime soon.
The general rule is: whenever there is cream in a processed product, think trans fats and run in the opposite direction.
Although trans fats have been a major public health issue for a while now, studies show that most Americans still consume 1.3 grams of these dangerous artificial fats on a daily basis, despite knowing how bad they are for their health.
The 2006 regulation policy that forced food manufacturers to include trans fat content information on labels has led to a significant reduction of trans fat consumption, but it still wasn’t enough to completely eliminate them from our diet, while research has found that even low consumption of trans fats has negative influence on our health.
Almost four decades after the dangers of trans fats have been brought to the public’s attention, they are finally being officially treated as the true poisons they really are. With the recent FDA decision, food manufacturers will have three years to reformulate the products they sell, but they will still have the option to petition the FDA and seek permission to use hydrogenated oils in their products.
We can expect this policy to make our food healthier or at least less harmful, but in the end, the food industry is a multi-billion business that will find holes in existing regulations and opt for cheaper ingredients and artificial additives anywhere it can, so we simply shouldn’t wait for an industry that will always strive to increase its profits to put our health first. It’s up to us as consumers to change our approach to food and make smarter choices about what we put in our bodies.