Health Tips - Trans Fat

 
Trans Fat

“Trans” fat refers to a certain chemical structure of fat. Food manufacturers create trans fat by adding hydrogen gas to liquid vegetable oil, a process called “hydrogenation”. When the oil is partially hydrogenated, it is a source of trans fat. Oddly, fully hydrogenated oil is not a source of trans fat. 80% of the trans fat in Americans’ diet comes from this factory-produced partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Hydrogenation makes the vegetable oil more solid. When the fat is more solid, it makes food less likely to spoil. For example, crackers stay crispy on the shelf for more years. Unfortunately, trans fat makes bodies last fewer years.

Trans fats are also found in shortenings used for deep-frying in restaurants. The low rancidity or spoilage rate of this oil means that it can be reused for a very long time.

Factory baked goods – such as crackers, cookies, cakes, pies, chips, breads, snacks – and many fried foods such as donuts and French fries – often contain trans fats. Shortenings and some margarine are also high in trans fat. Trans fats can also be found in fast foods, microwaved popcorn, and ice cream.

In the U.S., less than 0.5 gram trans fat per serving can be listed as 0 grams on the food label. Although that is a small amount of trans fat, if you eat multiple servings of foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, you can create health trouble.

How do you Know Whether Food Contains Trans Fat?

On the list of ingredients, look for partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, shortening or just “hydrogenated vegetable oil”. If it says anything close to these, choose something else to eat!

In addition to the manufactured type of trans fat, natural trans fats can be found in specific meat – cow, sheep, and goat – and dairy foods, such as cream, milk, yogurt, cheese, and butter. However, this natural trans fat is not exactly the same and may have benefits.

What’s the Beef About Trans Fats?

Man-made trans fats do the same thing in bodies that bacon grease does to kitchen sinks. They clog the arteries that feed the heart and brain, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Man-made or artificial trans fat increases obesity and abdominal fat, raises bad cholesterol level, lowers good cholesterol and increases heart disease, just to mention a few of its harmful effects. Some health studies show that even a couple of grams of it a day can significantly increase the chance of a heart attack.

New York City became the first city in the U.S. to ban artificial trans fats in restaurant cooking. The ban has exceptions, such as allowing restaurants to serve foods that come in the manufacturer’s original packaging. Boston, Philadelphia, and several smaller cities have similar bans in effect.

In other cities, if there is a restaurant you frequent, ask the manager if they still use partially hydrogenated oil in their kitchen!

Better yet, dig out your favorite recipes to make more nourishing, fresh, real food at home! Find some tasty, quick-to-fix recipes here.

Read all my nutrition tips to find out how easy it is to keep yourself healthy, and how to get healthier faster.

Best wishes,

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Dr. Pepi

 
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