The more you learn about nutrition, the clearer it becomes that chemically processed foods are not healthy choices. Some types are more damaging than others, though. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are among the worst. Avoiding these trans fats may be one of the best health choices anyone eating a standard American diet can make.

Trans Fats…

  • The term “trans fat” refers to the molecular make-up of certain kinds of fats that, like saturated fat, are solid at room temperature. Trans fats can occur naturally or can be man-made.
  • Natural trans fats can be found in some animal products in trace amounts. Research suggests that these types of trans fats aren’t as harmful as man-made trans fats, and may even have health benefits. Natural trans fats are the exception, though, and are not normally what experts are referring to when they discuss trans fats.
  • Manufactured trans fats start as liquid vegetable oils such as corn, peanut, or soybean oil. Through an industrial process using metals like nickel and aluminum as a catalyst, the oils are heated, hydrogen is added, and the fat becomes solid. These trans fats are also called “trans fatty acids” or “partially hydrogenated oils”.

 

Health Effects of Hydrogenated Oils…

  • Hydrogenated trans fats are chemically closer to plastic or cellulose than to vegetable oil. Simply put, hydrogenated oil is no longer real food. So it comes as no surprise that eating it leads to major health problems. In fact, trans fats are considered by many doctors and other experts to be the worst type of fat you can eat.
  • When you introduce this thicker, altered vegetable oil into your bloodstream, your blood becomes thicker and more viscous. The heart has to work harder to pump blood throughout the system. This is one of the major ways that consuming hydrogenated oils contributes to high blood pressure.
  • The thicker blood and the oil it transports can also clog arteries, causing heart disease.
  • This type of fat is known to increase blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, while lowering levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), known as “good” cholesterol.
  • Man-made trans fats have also been linked to Type 2 Diabetes, elevated triglycerides, some types of cancer, and inflammation.

 

Avoiding Hydrogenated Trans Fats…

  • Many food companies use trans fat instead of oil because it reduces cost, extends the storage life of products (trans fats, like plastics, do not spoil), and is thought by some to improve flavor and texture.
  • No safe amount of trans fat consumption has been established. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declined to issue a recommendation for daily amount as it has with sodium, saturated fat, or other nutritional components it advises most people to limit their diets. The American Heart Association recommends that people limit trans fats to less than 2 grams per day. All research to date suggests reducing trans fat intake as much as possible.
  • Artificial, hydrogenated trans fats can be found in margarine, shortening, baked goods like cookies, crackers, and doughnuts, fried foods, and more.
  • The FDA now requires food manufacturers to list trans fats on Nutrition Facts panels. Trans fat amounts are listed below the line for saturated fat.
  • Many processed food manufacturers have started reducing the trans fats in their products. Under FDA guidelines, if a serving contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, the Nutrition Facts panel will list the amount as zero grams. Be aware that a label that reads “zero trans fat” might still contain these oils.
  • To be sure you’re avoiding trans fats, it’s important to read food labels, particularly ingredients lists. If the lists include words like “shortening” or “partially hydrogenated” it means that the products contain trans fats. The higher these words appear on a list, the more trans fats that food will contain.
  • Because partially hydrogenated vegetable oil is only found in processed foods, an easy way to avoid unhealthy trans fats is to choose a diet of unprocessed, whole foods in their natural state. Keep in mind that the faster a food goes bad, the healthier it usually is.

 

Sources:

  1. Why Hydrogenated Oils Should Be Avoided http://www.naturalnews.com/024694_oil_food_oils.html
  2. Natural Trans Fats Have Benefits http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080402152140.htm

3.. Trans Fat Is Double Trouble For Your Heart Health http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/trans-fat/CL00032

  1. Trans-Fats Linked To Breast Cancer http://www.breastcancer.org/tips/nutrition/new_research/20080411b.jsp
  2. Zero Trans Fat Doesn’t Always Mean None http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20349315/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/t/zero-trans-fat-doesnt-always-mean-none/
  3. Trans Fat http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2003/07/19/trans-fat-part-three.aspx
  4. Trans Fat Now Listed http://www.fda.gov/food/labelingnutrition/ConsumerInformation/ucm109832.htm
  5. Trans Fat On Nutrition Facts Labels http://www.stop-trans-fat.com/nutrition-facts-labels.html