So the health buzz recently has been about trans fats. You’ve probably heard something about these once or twice in the news in the past few weeks. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced efforts to reduce partially hydrogenated oils, the primary dietary source of trans fats, in our food products by requiring that they be noted as not being safe to consume and eventually having them removed from all products in our food supply.
Do you know what trans fats are? Do you think you need to know? Well, if you want to incorporate a healthy diet into your lifestyle, you need to know to steer clear of any food that contains these fats. Trans fats have been around in our food for years and unfortunately, they are not beneficial to our health. They are created by food manufacturers when a liquid oil is put through a process called hydrogenation, which basically turns a healthier liquid oil into a not so healthy solid fat.
Turns out research says these trans fats contribute to elevated levels of low density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as the “bad” cholesterol on your blood lipid panel. It also contributes to coronary artery disease, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Doesn’t sound a bit healthy, does it?
By eradicating trans fats from our food supply, the FDA believes thousands of lives will be saved every year. What the heck took so long, I ask? But that’s another topic for another article.
These trans fats are most often found in processed foods such as margarine, frozen foods, microwave popcorn, tub frosting, fast foods, and commercial baked goods. Many food manufacturers started changing their ways when the FDA mandated that the trans fat content of foods be shown on the food label in 2006.
Consumers started to become much more aware of these nasty fats and what they do to a body and they were choosing to bypass foods that contained them. Thus, manufacturers had to tweak their recipes to do away with the trans fats if they wanted to keep their customers happy and buying more of their products.
If you look at the labels of some of the products in your pantry and refrigerator, you may be surprised to find what items do have these trans fats. You may also be pleasantly surprised by items that no longer contain them and have a big fat zero on the nutrition label under trans fat content. I know I was. My favorite store-bought cookie did away with them years ago. The frozen biscuit brand I buy on occasion finally did away with them in the last year and I can’t tell the difference in taste or quality. The manufacturer may not get that extended shelf life they were looking for, but I will not be contributing to my LDL level now!
So, on that note, if you want to avoid trans fats in your diet, avoid processed foods. Pay attention to the nutrition label and the ingredient list. Even if the nutrition label says something contains zero grams of trans fats, if the ingredient list shows “partially hydrogenated oil” of any type, it’s got some in there, maybe just not enough for that particular food’s serving size to be counted, but if you are going to eat more than one serving you will be racking up those trans fats until they are done away with for good. Wishing everyone a healthy and happy holiday season!
Sherry Munoz is a Registered Dietitian at DaVita Dialysis Centers and Banner Churchill Community Hospital. Your nutrition questions are welcome--send questions to Sherry Munoz, R.D., C.D.E. in care of this newspaper.