2.34 Trans Fat

Trans fatty acids, a.k.a. “trans fat”, are mostly artificially produced through the chemical process of hydrogenation of unsaturated oils. There are some naturally occurring trans fats as well that can be found in beef and dairy fat.

The effects of trans fat on your cholesterol are even worse than saturated fats. The bad LDL cholesterol increases and the good HDL cholesterol decreases. Trans fats have been shown to increase inflammation, increase diabetes risk and simply increase the risk of heart disease. Foods that commonly have a high amount of trans fats include:

  • Commercially prepared baked foods (cakes, cookies, pies, crackers)
  • Snacks (potato/corn/tortilla chips, popcorn)
  • Fried foods (french fries, onion rings, fried shrimp, fried chicken, doughnuts)
  • Refrigerator dough (biscuits, cinnamon rolls, frozen pizza)
  • Margarine, shortening agents, nondairy coffee creamer
  • Red meats (hamburgers, steaks)

Note that margarine used to be marketed as a healthier alternative to butter since it is made from vegetable oils, but to make it solid it had to be hydrogenated. This results in a large amount of trans fats and thus it actually IS NOT healthy for your heart. There are some “soft margarines” which contain less trans fat, but they are still oil based and thus are still calorie dense.

There has been a large movement politically and by industry to reduce the amount of trans fats in food. Quite a few improvements have been made, however, you must still look at the labels closely to see what you are eating.

Here is what a label looks like with high trans fats:

Nutritional facts

If “trans fats” are not listed, look at the ingredient list to see if “partially hydrogenated oils” or “hydrogenated oils” appears.

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