More and more research proves that healthy fats are an absolute necessity for a sharp mind and a strong body. But it's also clear that trans fat foods should leave your menu once and for all.
Also known as trans-unsaturated fatty acids or trans fatty acids, this type of unsaturated fat has become a staple everyday food ingredient in the 50s, with the rise of fast food diners, wide industrial production of margarine and fried packaged snacks. It was praised for its appealing physical properties, such as melting at a desirable temperature, extended shelf-life, and supposedly being healthier than the animal-derived fats.
There are naturally-occurring and artificial trans fat. The former is produced in the gut of ruminants and can be found in animal-derived products such as meats and dairy, but the quantities are small. The latter, on the other hand, is industrially processed by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils. This "improvement" keeps the oils solid.
They are easy to produce, they are cheap, they last a long time, and can even be reused for deep-frying several times. No wonder it's a secret poison that most fast-food restaurants can't resist using up to this day.
Why are trans fats bad for you?
Whether it's naturally-found or artificially-produced, effects of trans fat to your health is highly damaging. What they do is they increase your LDL (often termed "bad cholesterol") and lower your HDL ( often termed “good cholesterol”).
The biggest trans fat health risks include coronary artery disease (CAD) and systematic inflammation. But the risks don't stop here. The consumption of trans fats are also linked to Alzheimer's disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, liver dysfunction, infertility in women, depression, irritability, and acne.
According to The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), trans fatty acids put the consumers in danger of developing a handful of diseases without giving any benefits whatsoever. Hence, there is no recommended dose that would be safe to use.
Ways to lower your consumption of trans fat
The easiest and healthiest way to avoid this sneaky poison is to omit all processed and prepackaged food, fast food, and most bakery goods from your diet. You can't go wrong with focusing on eating veggies, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Also, getting interested and diving into the bliss of home cooking, as much as you can, will be more healthy (and cheaper!) than constantly eating out, be it in fast food restaurants or not. It will improve your relationship with food and your own body in general.
Cooking by yourself will also allow you to monitor your ingredients. This will give you much more freedom to experiment with healthy variations of your favorite meals, even if they're pastries, pies, and cakes.
However, if you want to indulge in your factory-produced guilty pleasures limit their consumption to the minimum, leave them for those rare special occasions, or when traveling for the sake of convenience.
Whenever you want to buy a prepackaged snack or meal, check out the nutritional value label. The amount of trans fats per serving should be 0 mg.
Also, check the ingredient list if there are any "partially hydrogenated oils" in there. If there are, you're in for a risky treat. Look for the ones made with unhydrogenated oil or hydrogenated vegetable oils or saturated fat for a slightly better option.
When baking by yourself, make sure to use soft margarine as a substitute for butter. Choose soft or liquid varieties over the hard ones.
Foods to avoid include:
- Fast foods;
- Spreads, such as margarine spreads or low-quality peanut butters;
- Crispy snacks, such as potato and corn chips, crackers, and cookies;
- Fried foods, such as fried chicken, onion rings, and nuggets;
- Meat pies and sausage rolls;
- Non-dairy creamers;
- Canned cake frosting;
- Vegetable shortening;
- Frozen pie crusts, pizza dough, and cookie dough;
- Pastries, donuts, and pies;
- Some microwavable popcorn varieties;
- Some varieties of margarine and low-quality vegetable oils.