What are Trans Fats and how they harm you?
Recently, there is this super bug that has come up in the food and health industry called the Trans Fats. You must have often seen a lot of products claiming ZERO TRANS FAT! How and why trans fats became a food villain? Let’s understand what trans fats actually are and what do they do to our body?
What are trans fats?
Trans fats or trans unsaturated fatty acid is a type of fat that occurs in small amounts in the nature. It is basically of two types – naturally occurring and artificial trans fats. Naturally occurring trans fats are produced in the gut of some animals and the foods produced by animals may contain small amounts.
However, the most common source of trans fats in our diet is the artificial trans fats. Artificial trans fats are basically created by hydrogenating the liquid vegetable oils which makes it more solid at room temperature. Plus, they last longer before going rancid, thus saving money.
By 1960s, hydrogenated vegetable oil was used widespread by food companies, restaurants and even home makers. This new, chemically altered oil not only had amazing cooking properties (like crispier pie crusts), it also solved a major problem in the food industry. Baked and fried goods now had a longer shelf life. Plus, it was cheap – but everything has a price.
How does your body treat trans fats?
Trans fat is digested and absorbed like any other fat in the body. The dietary fats are broken down in the small intestine, then the fatty acids are absorbed across the walls of the intestine.
These fatty acids either go to the liver or they are packed in chylomicrons and they enter in the blood. If these fatty acids are not used up, they are stored as fat in the body.
So, more the trans fats you consume, more of it will be stored in your body. The trans fatty acids if used as fuel, is broken down to carbon dioxide and water just like the other fatty acids.
Why are trans fats bad for you?
Too much intake of trans fat can lead to a number of lifestyle diseases. A lot of researches have proven that trans fats raise your LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and decrease your HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). That also increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and stroke.
There is also a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Trans fats can induce central obesity in the person thus increasing your waist line. Overall, it is detrimental bug to your health!
Trans fats are now out of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ingredient list that were “generally recommended as safe” (GRAS). Now it is compulsory for the food manufacturers to cut down on their trans fat content drastically.
Which foods contain trans fats?
Trans fats can be found in many foods like doughnuts, baked goods like pastries, cakes, biscuits, cookies, crackers, french fries, frozen pizza, frozen pie crusts and margarine(Apparently a cheaper butter substitute).
Trans fats and Street Food
Since, the Vanaspati is cheaper plus the product lasts for a longer time, there are a lot of chances that the street food you love to eat may be loaded with trans fats. Moreover, street vendors in India may fry food in the same oil multiple times, which can also bring in compounds in the oil which is detrimental for health. So be careful of the yummy streetfood like Samosa, Kachori, Vada Pav, Kanda Bhajia which are most likely to be cooked using Trans Fat.
Why are some trans fats hidden?
The good news is, you can determine the amount of trans fats in a packaged food by reading the nutrition label. The bad news is, these nutrition labels may not be foolproof. There are loopholes in the government regulations, that is, a manufacturer is allowed to print “0 grams trans fats” on the label if the amount of trans fat is between 0 – 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. Thereby, manufacturers may try to fool in by reducing the serving size of the product and printing 0 grams trans fats on the label, which could actually have small amounts of trans fats.
You can also spot trans fats by reading the label and looking for “partially hydrogenated oils” in the ingredient list.
How to avoid trans fats?
As mentioned above, your label may read “0 trans fats” and still contain trans fats, you need to be vigilant. Look at ingredients, do not choose packaged foods that say partially hydrogenated oil or hydrogenated oil, that’s a sign of danger that trans fats are present in the food.
However, the best way to avoid trans fats is to eat more of whole and unprocessed plant foods, emphasize on vegetables and fruits, avoid packaged foods, eat more of low fat dairy products, poultry, seeds, beans and nuts. Also limit red meat and sugary food and beverages. Also avoid junk foods and processed foods.
The Takeaway Message
Trans fats do not have a place in the healthy diet. By choosing a diet rich in whole grains, unprocessed foods, you will avoid these harmful fats. Once in a while, if you choose to have processed or packaged food, be sure to read the nutrition label carefully, so you can completely avoid the trans fats.