This blog explains little more about harmful effects of trans-fats, which caught the attention of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Before trans-fats era many products were made from lard, palm oil, coconut oil, butter, clarified butter which were naturally occurring animal or vegetable saturated fats. And the liquid natural unsaturated oils forlornly, can go rancid easily upon exposure to heat and light (that’s why it’s good to buy oil in dark glass bottles and store in dark places). Not all unsaturated oils get rancid, a little stable exception is extra virgin olive oil, because it contains 75 percent of monounsaturated fats (MUFA), which are also found in nuts, avocados, and whole milk. The anti-inflammatory properties of MUFA’s keeps our heart healthy and protective against metabolic syndrome. However, Olive oil shouldn’t be heated, which damages its phytonutrients and is better to add after cooking or as salad dressings.
To overcome the challenges of oils going rancid, and greatly enhancing the shelf-life of foods, enhance texture, and preserve the flavor, the scientists came up with the process of hydrogenating liquid oils; a process that changes configuration of oil from liquid to a solid state at room temperature. Then came the era of creation of artificial trans-fats, which are not natural. They are commonly found in baked and sweet goods especially commercially packaged foods and highly processed foods, French fries, potato chips, dough nuts, candy bars, tortilla chips, chocolate drink milk, pastries, hard taco shells, hard margarine, soft margarine, vegetable shortening, hamburger buns, muffins, cake and pancake mixes, crackers, cookies, pizza dough, frosting, nuggets and even microwave popcorn, the list is endless.
Trans fats, then became a major dietary concern as research steadily showed its relation to risk of heart disease by both raising bad LDL cholesterol and lowering good HDL cholesterol. In January 2006, FDA Food Advisory Committee voted to restrict its intake to less than 1% of energy (2g per day of a 2000 kcal diet) and required food manufacturers to include trans-fats on nutritional fact panels/labels. Most restaurants chains have switched to using trans-fat-free oils, but there are some small restaurants still using in cooking. In 2008 New York City became the first city to ban trans fats in its restaurants because of gallantry efforts of the Mayor.
The government’s efforts to remove trans fats is progressing. In the meantime, be weary of labels, because these nutritional labels can be sometime misleading, for instance a product may contain legally up to 0.5 grams and still be labeled trans-fat free and if you had more than one serving, you are consuming multiple grams of trans fat in an apparently trans-fat free product. Anything called hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated or fully hydrogenated is a source of trans fat. So keep in mind any food that lists partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, hydrogenated vegetable oils or shortening most likely contains trans-fats even if nutritional facts panel lists zero trans fats. The Bottom Line is to empower yourself towards healthy and safer foods.
Photo Credit: Hydrogenation
Writing on ‘How Trans-fats entered our foods, and how to identify it from the labels’ is in continuation of my reflection to contribute to Vibrant Healthy Communities. Share your thoughts, if you have seen labels with misleading information!