How Trans Fat Hides

Trans Fat in Ingredient-List
Partially Hydrogenated fats or oils in the ingredient list ALWAYS indicates trans fat.
Trans fat. You probably know it’s bad for you. But you may not realize that it is still common in our food supply. New York City may have banned it, and fast food restaurants may have eliminated it, but have you checked those cookies and other goodies in your pantry? They may say “0 grams trans fat” on the front, but you’ll need to dig deeper to learn the truth.

Trans fat starts out as unsaturated fat, and it is created through a process called hydrogenation. Unsaturated oils are heated under pressure with a metal catalyst for several hours. The metals used may be aluminum, cobalt, nickel, palladium or platinum. The hydrogenation process produces a solid fat that has a longer shelf life, making the process desirable for many food manufacturers.

Why You Want to Avoid Trans Fat

What makes trans fat bad? In a nutshell, there is no nutritional benefit from eating trans fat. Here are some key reasons to avoid trans fat:

  • Trans fats can interfere with our ability to process essential fats, the omega fats we need in our diet.
  • Trans fats can interfere with our ability to process essential fats, the omega fats we need in our diet.
  • Trans fat increases LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and decreases HDL (the “good” cholesterol).
  • Trans fat increases triglyceride levels.
  • Trans fat increases inflammation in the body.
  • Consuming trans fat can result in a higher risk of Type-2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
  • Trans fat interferes with our detox pathways, thereby increasing our toxic load.
  • Trans fat gets “stuck” in our body and causes our blood to become hard and sticky.
  • Trans fat disrupts hormone synthesis, metabolism, immunity and tissue repair.

All of that may make you wonder why trans fat is used at all. The simple answer is it’s a business decision, about dollars and cents. When exposed to air, unsaturated fats can become rancid or stale quickly. Foods made with trans fat will last longer on the shelf before they go bad.

Another good question is, “How do trans fats continue to ‘sneak’ into so many foods?” The reason is due to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guideline regarding food labeling that states, “If a serving contains less than 0.5 grams, the content, when declared, must be expressed as ‘0 g.’” Because serving sizes are arbitrary, they can be adjusted to meet the FDA guideline. For example, if a serving size of four cookies exceeds 0.5 grams of trans fat, the serving size can be adjusted to three cookies and the label can read 0 grams of trans fat.

Trans Fat Hides in Nutrition Facts
Trans Fat is listed on this nutrition label as 0 grams. But be sure to check the ingredient list for any partially hydrogenated fats/oils.

Avoiding Trans Fat

The American Heart Association suggests keeping trans fat consumption below 2 grams daily. Knowing the health issues that could result from consuming trans fats, total avoidance might be a better plan. Here’s how to avoid trans fats:

  • Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. This is where you’ll find the fresh, unprocessed foods.
  • Avoid processed foods.
  • Read the ingredient list. If the list includes any hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated oils, put it back.
  • Ask restaurants you frequent what types of fats and oils they use in the food preparation. If hydrogenated oils are involved, you’ll be consuming trans fat.

(Note: This article first appeared in the May 2014 issue of Natural Awakenings San Antonio.)

Thanks for stopping by! Do you make an effort to avoid trans fat?

Barbara
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Barbara

Hi, I’m Barbara McNeely, author and publisher in San Antonio, Texas. I coach authors who have a personal story they want to share in a book. And I consult and guide authors through the process of self-publishing their books.
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