Do you know that most of what you eat is saturated with transfat, which could harm you?

First of, what are Trans fats?

Trans fats, also known as trans fatty acids are a form of unsaturated fat. It is considered the worst fat to consume — it raises your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lowers your HDL (“good”) cholesterol – which is dangerous.

Saturated fats have no double bonds, unlike unsaturated fats that have at least one double bond in their chemical structure. Trans fats are made by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid and so have hydrogen atoms on opposite sides, which can be a problem.

This partially hydrogenated oil is less likely to spoil which explains why it’s used to increase the shelf life of foods. They make food taste good.

There are two broad types of trans fats found in foods: naturally occurring and artificial trans fats.

Naturally occurring trans fats or ruminant trans fats are produced naturally in the gut of some animals and foods made from these animals, for instance, milk, lamp, and meat products which contain small quantities of these fats. These trans fats typically make up 2-5% of the fat in dairy products and 3-9% of the fat in beef and lamb. However, this shouldn’t raise any alarm as moderate intake of ruminant trans-fat does appear to be harmless.

These same effects can NOT be said about trans-fat. Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Trans-Fats and Heart Disease Risk

Trans fats significantly increase your risk of heart disease. Trans fats increase cholesterol ratio and negatively affects lipoproteins, both important risk factors for heart disease.

Trans-Fats and Insulin Sensitivity and Type II Diabetes

A study of over 80,000 women found that those who consumed the most trans-fat had a 40% higher risk of diabetes. Trans fats are associated with insulin resistance and blood sugar levels.

Trans Fats and Inflammation

Excess inflammation is linked to consumption of trans fat. This includes heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, arthritis and numerous others between trans fats and inflammation.

Trans fats increase inflammatory markers such as IL-6 and TNF alpha while replacing other nutrients in the diet. Also, in people that have a lot of body fat, trans fat has been linked to increasing an inflammatory marker like C-Reactive Protein.

Evidence gathered shows that trans fats are a principal driver of inflammation, which can potentially lead to all sorts of problems.

Trans-Fat And Blood Vessels and Cancer

Trans fats are believed to damage the inner lining of the blood vessels, known as the endothelium.

A study proved that when saturated fats were replaced with trans fats in a period of 4 weeks, HDL cholesterol was lowered by 21% and the ability of arteries to dilate was impaired by 29%.

Trans fats can damage the inner lining of your blood vessels, causing a condition known as endothelial dysfunction. The effect on cancer risk is less evident. Nevertheless, a study linked trans fats to increased risk of breast cancer after menopause.

Trans-Fat And Cholesterol

Trans fat also has an unhealthy effect on cholesterol levels. It increases your LDL and decreases your HDL cholesterol.

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL or “bad,” cholesterol can harden arteries over time. LDL builds up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL or “good,” cholesterol functions by picking up excess cholesterol and takes it to the liver.

When fatty deposits within the arteries tear or rupture, a blood clot may form and block blood flow to a part of the heart, causing a heart attack. If this blockage is connected to a part of the brain, it can cause a stroke.

How low should you go?

In order to avoid these potential risks, the best option is to keep your intake of trans fat as low as possible.

Foods To Avoid

The first thing to note is, foods free of trans fats aren’t automatically good for you. Trans fats can be easily substituted for other ingredients for trans-fat that may not be healthy either. Such as coconut and palm kernel oil which contains a lot of saturated fat. Saturated fat raises total cholesterol level. A healthy diet can entail 20 to 35 percent of fat. However, fat should account for less than 10 percent of your daily calories. Here’s a tip: If food can last for weeks without going stale, trans-fat might be keeping it fresh. Learn to read labels.

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Cakes, pies and cookies (especially with frosting)

Most cake and cookie mixes indicate 0 grams of trans-fat on the label. Nonetheless, food manufacturers are allowed to list 0 grams if the trans-fat content is under 0.5 grams. These negligible amounts add up when you eat multiple slices of cake and sweets, particularly with frosting. An average serving of frosting contains 2 grams of trans-fat, plus the same amount of sugar as one tiny slice of cake. Now that’s a lot of sugar and trans-fat.

Biscuits

This might come as a surprise but frozen biscuits, especially contain upwards of 3.5 grams of trans-fat. Look out for the word “flaky,” it is a texture trans-fat helps produce. In addition, biscuits often contain over half of the daily recommendation for sodium.

Margarine (stick or tub)

For margarine to retain its solid form, most manufacturers use hydrogenated oils which are high in trans-fat. Note that though you might not find trans-fat listed on your favourite margarine brand, you should do a double check to be sure.

Cream-filled candies

Watch your intake of candies with creamy fillings. They typically contain 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving and it’s easy to eat more than one serving. These products are high in calories and provide no nutritional benefit.

Fried foods

Be wary of deep-fried foods such as French fries, fried chicken, unless you know a low-trans oil was used. Whether or not it was fried using partially hydrogenated oil, it’s best for your heart to stay clear of fried foods anyway.

Other examples of foods made using trans-fat include Crackers, Microwave popcorn, Doughnuts, Blended vegetable oil, baked meaty goods such as sausage rolls and meat pies, Non-daily coffee whiteners, etc.

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