The War On Fats: Hydrogenated and Trans Fats (Part 2)

Okay, there’s no war, per se, but seriously, why is it so complicated to make proper choices when you’re being bombarded with clever marketing to try and trick you to purchase items that seem healthy but are secretly horribly disgusting for you?

By now, I’m sure you’ve been made aware of the whole “trans fat free” craze. You see two bags of chips in the store. One says “trans fat free” on it. Obviously you decide to purchase that one. WHY? Because you believe that it is a healthier choice. Or is it?

Let’s begin by looking at what are trans fats. Trans fats are the product of the process that converts liquid vegetable oils into solid fats. This process is referred to as hydrogenation.

When oil is hydrogenated, there is structural change in the fat. The naturally occurring CIS structure (which is the structure found in unsaturated fats – where there are empty spaces in the fat molecules) of the fat is converted to a TRANS structure, therefore becoming trans fatty acid.

Trans fatty acid is bad news bears. It’s linked to heart disease, cancer and pre-mature aging. If that isn’t scary enough, it raises the bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowers the good cholesterol (HDL).  See my last blog post, Feeling Fat? when I talked about unsaturated fats and they have the opposite effect – lowering the bad and raising the good!

Hydrogenated fats are commonly found in commercially prepared baked good, candies, ice cream, chocolate, peanut butter, boxed cereals, and snack foods. Oh, and margarine. Yup, turns out you’re better off having butter (in small quantities though, don’t go crazy and start stock-piling the butter on your mashed potatoes and toast).

They are easily avoided by preparing your own food at home.

This article sums it all up nicely. In it, the author explains that even if a product claims to be trans fat free, it might not be. In Canada, the government has ruled that a product can be labeled trans fat free if it contains less than 1 gram of trans fats per serving, so say 0.5 grams per serving. BUT if you consume, say, 2 or 3 servings, then that adds up quickly. Before you know it, you’ve ingested 1 – 2 grams of trans fats in one sitting!

The best way to steer clear of these? Read the ingredients. A good rule of thumb is, the simpler the ingredient list, the better.

Take a look at this and after reading this post and seeing the options for peanut butter, tell me, which one would YOU choose?