As a matter of fat

Thursday, 5 March 2009
Can you name 3 trans fat foods?

It is one thing knowing that they are bad for you but another being conscious of what foods contain them and importantly, what foods you consume at the end of the day that will affect your health.

Experts have expressed a great concern about consuming this fat and believe it is a greater threat to health than eating foods loaded with saturated fats. Yet, this is a relatively new understanding; it was not known that trans fat were bad. In actual fact, in the early days trans fats were thought to be a healthy alternative. During World War II butter was in poor supply so trans fats were welcomed, as it meant food didn’t spoil easily. Today, manufacturers saluted this fat as it gave their products a longer shelf life. In addition, the low smoking point of trans fats means it is ideal for fast food restaurants and alike, for deep fat frying.

These are some of the main trans fat offenders: cookies, crackers, cakes, pastries, shortening, stick margarine, deep-fried foods, doughnuts, muffins, breaded fish and chicken nuggets, processed cheese foods, and partially hydrogenated oils.

Most of the trans fat in products is created artificially by ‘hydrogenation’, which involves running hydrogen gas through vegetable oil. Hydrogen is added to the liquid oil to make it solid. Most products are partially hydrogenated and this is the most harmful type, the ‘trans’ type, and produces margarines, shortenings and oils that are more stable during frying. If a fat is totally hydrogenated it does not contain trans fats. The trans fat structure only occurs when fats are partially hydrogenated, which jumbles up the normal placement of hydrogen atoms on the carbon chain. If you see fully hydrogenated or totally hydrogenated fat listed on a food label, the ingredient is trans fat free.

Start reading the food labels and ingredient list. Fortunately, there are laws now that ensure products which contain trans fats and/or partially hydrogenated oils have to state this on the labels.
Don’t get caught out by just focusing on the trans fat and and be wary if the label states ‘Trans fats free’. This means that the food contains less than .5g. Many people wouldn’t even know to look even further. Check the ingredient list to see if the product contains shortening, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, or hydrogenated vegetable oil. At the end of the day, even eating small amounts here and there will add up your total trans fat content, so be cautious even with small amounts. However, naturally occurring trans fat in meat, butter, milk, cheese and even cabbage are harmless as they are structured differently than the artificially altered ones and may even benefit your health.
Trans fat are dangerous in particular, as they not only raise the LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol, they also lower the HDL ‘good’ cholesterol, thus raising the total cholesterol level in your body. Furthermore, frequently eating foods with trans fats can increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as a possible increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, infertility and blood clots.

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