Trans fats, known as (‘Trans Fatty Acids’) made through the chemical process of hydrogenation of oils, is bad for us. Hydrogenation as it’s known, solidifies liquid oils, increases the flavour stability of oils and foods that contain them and also increases the shelf life of foods. Always try to avoid foods containing trans-fats.
Foods that contain Trans Fatty Acids
In recent years, we have all heard a lot about trans fats, a type of fat that has been shown to lower levels of HDL, or good cholesterol, and raise levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol.
The American Heart Association, or AHA, advises that we should reduce our intake of these fats to lower our risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Trans fats result when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil.
This creates a more stable fat that keeps foods fresher longer and extends the shelf life of packaged goods. These fats also occur naturally in small amounts in some foods. The AHA suggests we limit intake to less than 1% of total caloric intake daily.
Commercially Prepared Foods
Many commercially prepared foods like cookies, cakes, frozen dinners, chips and crackers contain trans fats, as do shortening and many types of margarine. If the list of ingredients names any sort of partially hydrogenated oil, margarine or shortening, that food contains this potentially dangerous fat.
Look for healthier brands that include more natural ingredients and avoid trans fats altogether. If we want to make a serious effort to avoid these fats, we must increase our intake of fresh, whole foods rather than getting a majority of nutrition from processed and prepared foods.
Fast food is among the highest sources of trans fat. A large order of French-fries can contain as much as 5 grams of trans fat, according to the Mayo Clinic. While it is recommended that we consume only 2 grams per day on a 2000 calorie/day diet.
Cookies, cake and other packaged baked goods can contain 2 or 3 grams of trans fat per serving. Crackers, potato chips, cream cheese and microwaveable popcorn can also contain high levels of trans fat.
Trans fats occur naturally in the digestive system of many animals, including cows. This means that dairy products like butterfat and many types of meat will contain these fats, though in much smaller amounts than foods prepared with the industrially produced versions. The American Heart Association notes these naturally occurring trans fats do not appear to exhibit the same health risks as their manufactured counterparts.
Always read food labels and nutrition information to learn what foods contain trans-fat. Check the ingredient list for partially hydrogenated oil, which is a clue that the food contains trans-fat, even if it’s not listed on the nutrition label.
Manufacturers can claim that a food is trans-fat free if it contains 0.5 grams or less per serving. We should cook at home whenever we can because it is not always possible to determine if a restaurant meal contains trans-fat.
Prepare food with olive oil or canola oil, in place of margarine, which can contain large amounts of trans fat per serving.