So many people focus on cutting back on carbs but not as many focus on cutting back on fat in their diets. Some fats are truly the bad fats, the worst kinds of fat for your health. These are trans fats. Trans fats are so bad for your health that during 2007-2011, eleven counties in New York actually banned trans fats. Restaurants, bakeries and concessions like park concessions could no longer sell foods containing trans fats. This became a perfect experiment on trans fats and health as some counties in New York allowed trans fat in food sold in public places and other counties did not. Granted, in every county in New York you could still go to the grocery store and buy foods containing trans fats, but not in restaurants and other public establishments that sold food. So, what did the researchers find?
Heart disease – in counties that banned trans fats, heart disease declined even more than in counties that did not ban the trans fats. Additionally, less people were admitted to hospitals for heart attacks and strokes as reported in JAMA Cardiology.
Why are trans fats so bad for your health?
The Mayo Clinic states, “Trans fat is considered by many doctors to be the worst type of fat you can eat.” This is because it raises your bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) and lowers your good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol). This raises your risk of heart disease.
What are trans fats?
Manufacturers add hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to create partially hydrogenated oil. This hydrogenated oil is solid at room temperature. Restaurants prefer this hydrogenated oil for deep fat frying as it lasts longer and they don’t have to change the oil in the fryer as often. Good for them but bad for us the consumer. Food manufacturers like to use partially hydrogenated oils as it has a longer shelf life so food products can be on the store shelves longer without spoiling. Good for the food manufacturers but not our health.
What foods have trans fats and how can you avoid them?
Mayo Clinic lists a number of foods that may contain trans fats. Even if the label says 0 grams of trans fat, FDA allows manufacturers to include up to 0.5 grams of trans fat, but label it 0 grams of trans fat.
Baked goods – yes, all those good-tasting goodies, the store-bought cookies, donuts, cakes, pie crusts and even crackers and frosting.
Snacks – some snacks do and some don’t. Chips may have trans fats. Look at the label and choose chips made with corn oil, sunflower or canola oil. Lays chips are healthier as they are made with liquid oils and not partially hydrogenated oils. Sun Chips are a good choice as they are whole grain and made with a healthier oil like corn oil.
Fried food – not only is fried food high in fat, but it may also contain trans fat.
Stick margarine – avoid stick margarine and choose tub margarine, softer margarines like Smart Balance are a better choice than stick margarines.
Why doesn’t FDA ban trans fats if they are so bad for our health?
Actually, FDA is banning trans fats but not until 2018. Since 2006, FDA required food manufacturers to list trans fat on the Nutrition Facts label because trans fat has been linked to heart disease by contributing to plaque buildup in arteries. In 2015, FDA ruled that partially hydrogenated oils were no longer “generally recognized as safe”. In June, 2018 food manufacturers will have to ensure that their products no longer contain partially hydrogenated oils unless FDA authorizes that use.
To cut back on the trans fats in your diet, look at the ingredients and look for “partially hydrogenated oil”. Even if the trans fat is 0 grams, if the food contains partially hydrogenated oil, the food has some trans fat in it.
Sources: JAMA Cardiology, Mayo Clinic states, Mayo Clinic , Smart Balance, generally recognized as safe Image Source: FDA