The Skinny on Trans Fat
Apr 8th, 2013
Chances are, you have encountered trans fat without even knowing it. Before 2006, trans fat was labeled as partially hydrogenated oil. The ingredient became popular with consumers and food manufacturers because it acted as a preservative, giving foods a longer shelf life. It also gave foods a more tempting taste and texture.
Most of the trans fat that we eat are created as a by-product of the process called hydrogenation, where food manufactures bubble hydrogen through liquid oils, turning them into solids to make cakes and pastries. Several studies have shown that people with high intake of trans fats have higher levels of heart disease.
Trans fat increase the level of “bad” or Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in our body, it has the ability to lower the concentration of “good” or High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which protects us from heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reducing trans fat consumption by avoiding artificial trans fat could prevent 10,000-20,000 heart attacks and 3,000-7,000 coronary heart disease deaths each year in the U.S.
Where do we get trans fat from?
“While trans fat occurs naturally in some meat and dairy products, it’s not a good idea to severely limit these because then you would be cutting out on other important nutrients,” says Patricia M. Babjak, Chief Executive Officer of the American Dietetic Association. “What concerns dieticians most is the trans fat that comes from the manufacturing process.” Oils containing trans fats are still widely used in the manufacture of products such as biscuits, cakes, buns, pies as well as for deep frying some fast foods.
The World Health Organization says, to be healthy, no more than one percent of our daily calories should come from trans fat and we should consume less than ten percent of calories from saturated fats. The US National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine has suggested the only safe level of trans fat is zero.
What can be done to reduce artificial trans fat?
- You can bring down levels of naturally occurring trans fats by trimming fat from meat and choosing lean cuts.
- Steer clear of manufactured cakes and pastries, particularly doughnuts, which have the highest levels of trans fat.
- Read the Nutrition Facts Label when going shopping.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when choosing foods low in trans fat, make sure they are also low in saturated fat and cholesterol: look for foods with 5 percent of the Daily Value or less. Foods with 20 percent or more of the Daily Value of these two components are high.
- Use monounsaturated fat (canola and olive oil) and polyunsaturated fat (soybean, corn, and sunflower oil) in recipes that call for fat.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables so you’re less likely to be eating bad fats.
- Butter contains trans fat and is also high in saturated fat, so using a high quality margarine is a good alternative.
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