The Truth About Trans Fats

trans fat

Whether we fully understand the issues or not, trans fats just can’t seem to shake their reputation as being one of the worst things we can put into our bodies. As the old adage goes, you are what you eat and if you choose to chew your way through trans fats at a high clip, you are cheap, gunky and bad for your better self. For both your oral and overall health, the foods you choose to consume play a major role in how you look and feel and changes for the better can make a difference almost immediately. If you are dedicated to your health of your loved ones and yourself understanding why you should avoid and eliminate trans fats from your diet is paramount.


What are Trans Fats?


There are essentially two types of trans fats. The first group occur naturally in small trances in various fatty food products such as beef, lamb and whole fat dairy products. The trans fats to be concerned with are those that are artificially created by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil in order to create a solid fat used in food manufacturing. These ‘lab’ fats help foods stay fresher longer while also enhancing flavour and even textures.


Why Should I Stop Eating Trans Fats?


In order to understand why trans fats are to be avoided or kept to the bare minimum, we must first understand the concept of cholesterol.  At normal levels, cholesterol is essential to our body’s normal function and is a critical component in the structure of our cell walls, hormone production while also making up the digestive bile that aid digestion. There are two types of cholesterol; low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is widely known as ‘bad cholesterol’ as excessive amounts lead to buildup of cholesterol within arteries, which can lead to heart disease. HDL on the other hand carries food-based cholesterol to our liver to be filtered out of our body.


Like saturated fats, trans fats increase the level of of the ‘bad’ LDL in our systems. The unique feature that makes trans fats so dangerous is that they compound this negative impact by also decreasing the ‘good’ HDL in our body. Given this combination, trans fats are by far the worst type of fat we can consume on a daily basis. If that weren’t enough, trans fats seem to damage the cells that line our blood vessels, leading to increased inflammation.


How Can I Avoid Trans Fats?


Thankfully, the health risks that a diet high in trans fats can create have been widely publicized and brought to consumer awareness via food labeling and packaging. Many products aim to differentiate themselves from their peers by way of ‘zero trans fat’ claims however you should be weary of these when it comes to certain foods. This is because large health bodies such as the US FDA and Health Canada allow trace amounts to be considered as zero per serving size which is often a very small amount relative to the entire package.


A healthy diet based around naturally occurring whole foods is recommended in order to avoid the artificially created trans fats. This includes things like lean meats, grains and vegetables. In terms of foods to avoid, the list is quite long and unfortunately rather delicious. Foods that commonly contain trans fats include;


  • packaged baked goods such as crackers, cookies, cakes, muffins, pie crusts and pizza dough;

  • some margarines and vegetable shortenings;

  • pre-mixed treats like cakes, pancakes and drink mixes;

  • fried foods including donuts, french fries and even hard taco shells;

  • popular snack foods such as chips, candy and microwave popcorn; and

  • frozen dinners.


Although no one should be expected to cut all these foods cold turkey, it is recommended that labels be read carefully and that trans fats make up no more than 1% of your daily caloric intake. Given that a gram of fat consists of 9 calories, the following breakdown based on your daily caloric needs can be found below.


Total calories         1% of total calories = Trans fat limit

        2,000                         20                                  About 2 grams

        1,500                         15                                 About 1.5 grams

        1,200                         12                                 Slightly more than 1 gram


The truth remains that you are what you eat and the things we choose to consume have a major impact on how we feel, look and live.


Sources: Web MD, Mayo Clinic

Photo: Weighty Matters

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