Trans Fat, What You Need to Know
What Are Trans Fat?
Trans fat is a type of unsaturated fat with trans-isomer bonds that are not naturally occurring in other fats. Industrially, trans fat is formed from the partial hydrogenation of vegetable oil, which turns liquid oils into solid fats and improves shelf life significantly. They’re also used in shortenings and many prepared foods such as pastries and baked goods. Trans fat raises total blood cholesterol more than any other kind of dietary fat–even more than saturated fat does.
It’s used in foods because it extends their shelf life, improves texture and gives them a better flavor and mouthfeel. The reason trans fats have such a bad reputation is because they can increase your risk of heart disease by raising low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, and increasing your level of triglyceride, a form of fat in the blood. Trans fat also reduces the uptake of LDL cholesterol into liver cells. Although many countries have banned or started regulating trans fats, they’re still widely used in the food industry.
Types Of Trans Fat
There are 2 types of trans fat:
- Naturally-occurring trans fat is produced in the gut of some animals and foods made from these animals (e.g., milk and meat products) may contain small quantities of these fats.
- Artificial trans fat (or trans fatty acids) are created in an industrial process in which hydrogenated oils are made by adding hydrogen atoms to vegetable oil. This process converts liquid vegetable oils into solid fats
It’s found in common in brands of margarine, crackers, microwave oven, and flavor. They are used to add texture, flavor, and longer shelf life to processed food.
Sources Of Trans Fat
Trans fats can be found in:
- Packaged foods like crackers, cookies, and frozen pizzas.
- Fried fast food like doughnuts and French fries.
- Desserts like cake mixes, frostings, pie crusts, and margarine mixes.
- Snack foods like microwave popcorn and coffee creamers.
- Margarine (especially stick margarine)
- Vegetable shortening
- Non-Dairy Coffee Creamer for coffee and tea
Health Effects Of Trans Fatty Diet
- A diet filled with trans fat increases inflammation in your body, which can lead to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.
- Trans fat also leads to belly fat gain
- Trans fats can increase levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, in your blood and decrease levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol. Diets high in trans fats raise your risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
- It increases the risk of stroke and types 2 diabetes.
- Eating too much trans fat can cause you to gain weight
How To Regulate Your Intake of Trans Fat
The American Heart Association recommends that adults who would benefit from lowering LDL cholesterol reduce their intake of trans fat and limit their consumption of saturated fat to 5 to 6% of total calories.
Here are some ways to achieve that:
- Eat a dietary pattern that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, and nuts. Also, limit red meat and sugary foods and beverages.
- Use naturally occurring, unhydrogenated vegetable oils such as canola, safflower, sunflower, or olive oil most often.
- Look for processed foods made with unhydrogenated oil rather than partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated vegetable oils or saturated fat.
- Use soft margarine as a substitute for butter, and choose soft margarine (liquid or tub varieties) over harder stick forms. Look for “0 g trans fat” on the Nutrition Facts label and no hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list.
- Doughnuts, cookies, crackers, muffins, pies, and cakes are examples of foods that may contain trans fat. Limit how frequently you eat them.
- Limit commercially fried foods and baked goods made with shortening or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Not only are these foods very high in fat, but that fat is also likely to be trans fat.