All About Trans Fat: A Damaging & Harmful Substance
Trans fat has long been a hidden public menace, clogging up our arteries like bad wasteand increasing the incidence of coronary heart disease.
A lot of people think they’re trans fat free, and I hope they are. We’re all learning to buy brands that proclaim ‘no trans fats’ while roaming the shopping aisles. However, not everything the typical person eats boasts a ‘no trans fats’ label, as trans fats are too deeply ingrained into our public consumption cycles for us to simply assume they’re gone. It may surprise you to know that trans fats have been commercially available since the 1910s. That’s one hundred years of trans fats!
Trans Fats are Chemical Preservatives
The main reason why trans fat is used in almost all food products is that it prolongs the shelf life of processed food products. It is also known to enhance the flavor of food, and is a superior baking agent to lard, which was a big deal back in the early 1900s.
Most of the trans fat we eat comes from processing liquid vegetable oil into solid fat.When trans fat travels through the arteries and into the intestines, it turns into sludge, blocking up your blood vessels and seriously damaging your heart. This is when trans fat becomes very dangerous to your health.
Weaning Yourself Off of Trans Fats
I dare you to take the anti trans fat challenge by opening your food cupboards and fridges and checking all your food product labels for “monounsaturated” or “polyunsaturated” fats.
Here is a list of the most common culprits taken from the University of Pennsylvania website:
- Instant noodles, instant ramen
- Many ‘healthy’ breakfast foods and cereals
- Ccookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, and breads such as hamburger buns
- Some stick margarine and vegetable shortening
- Pre-mixed cake mixes, pancake mixes, and chocolate drink mixes
- Fried foods, including donuts, french fries, chicken nuggets, and hard taco shells
- Snack foods, including chips, candy, and packaged or microwave popcorn
- Frozen dinners
- Fast food
Trans fat raises LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels. Trans fats also lower HDL or “good” cholesterol and do much more damage than saturated fats, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). The AHA advises limiting saturated fat consumption to less than 7% of daily calories and trans fat consumption to less than 1%. Given that a gram of fat has 9 calories, the following are the recommended trans fat limits based on calorie intake:
Total calories 1% of total calories = Trans fat limit
2,000 20 About 2 grams
1,500 15 About 1.5 grams
1,200 12 Slightly more than 1 gram
Since there’s a Food and Drug Administration ruling on the dangers of trans fats (thankfully), many food manufacturers have to reformulate products to reduce or eliminate trans fats. Cookies and soft-spread margarine are now available with zero trans fats. Be sure to read nutrition labels on processed foods that you buy. The NY Board of Health has also voted to make New York the first city in the nation to ban artificial trans fats in restaurant food, and I hope other cities take up the same banner. But reader beware: the FDA allows food labels to say no trans fat it it contains under 1g of trans fat, so you still need to read ingredient labels. If you see an ingredient that says “hydrogenated” this is an oil that still contains some trans fat and should be avoided.
At Least We Can Still ‘Chew The Fat’
Find any nasty surprises in your pantry? Have any thoughts or ideas to share? Here’s Lisa wishing you good health and happy commenting!
My passion is to help you live your healthiest and most harmonious life, but in a way that’s realistic and practical for you as a unique individual on this planet. My philosophy is all about “balance,” never a diet since a diet is not sustainable for life, aka Kill The Diet.