While people have opposing views when it comes to nutrition, everybody seems to agree that trans fats are unhealthy.
The good news is, we’ve been so aware of this that most of us try to avoid gobbling up these horrible fats. It’s just that sometimes, we end up consuming them, even worse, in large amounts!
So, let’s get to the bottom of this and once and for all, decide to nix these unhealthy fats completely. Take a closer look at the detrimental effects of trans fats so you can start saying bye-bye to them already!
Knowing they’re bad for you isn’t enough, though. You need to take action, too. So, we’ve also listed tips on how you can avoid trans fats and pick more nutritious choices!
What are Trans Fats?
Trans fats are classified into two types: naturally-occurring and artificial.
Naturally-occurring or natural trans fats, as its term suggests, are completely natural. They are formed in the gut of some animals when they digest grass.
This type of trans fat can be found in small quantities in dairy products (about two to five percent), and fat in lamb and beef (around three to nine percent).
Several studies concluded that moderate consumption of natural fats doesn’t pose danger to health.
It’s a different story for artificial trans fats, which are also called hydrogenated fats or industrial fats. These fats are formed by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils to change its structure, turning it from liquid to solid.
If you’ve ever read the ingredient list on processed food packages, these trans fats are labeled as partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs).
In 2015, the United States Food and Drug Administration issued its final determination that PHOs are not Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), considering its effects.
Why Do Food Makers Use Trans Fats?
Food makers are using trans fats to enhance the taste and texture, and extend the shelf life of processed foods.
Trans fats are commonly used by fast food chains and restaurants to deep-fry foods because they can be used multiple times in commercial fryers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is promoting a six-point blueprint dubbed as “Replace” in an effort to help governments eliminate or limit the use of trans fats in their respective countries.
Several countries and jurisdictions such as Denmark, Canada, Switzerland, New York City, and California have already implemented restrictions on the use of trans fats in food establishments.
Why Are Trans Fats Bad for You?
Unlike other fats, trans fats do not provide any health benefits. What’s worse, they can even put your health in danger.
If you’re wondering why experts are strongly urging everyone to avoid trans fats, take a look at its ill effects to your health:
They increase your risk of heart disease
Ischemic heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, according to WHO. Several studies show that trans fats may contribute to a higher risk of heart diseases.
Both clinical trials and observational studies found that the intake of trans fatty acids (TFAs) from partially hydrogenated oils negatively affects cardiovascular risk factors, and increases the risk of coronary heart disease.
Several other studies support such findings. In one study, it was found that trans fat consumption remains to be a risk factor for CHD.
Another research found a link between trans-fat intake and increased risk of CHD, particularly among younger women.
They also increase your risk of diabetes
The link between trans fats and diabetes is not yet fully established as studies show inconsistent results. Some studies found evidence that trans fats cause adverse effects while other research saw no significant changes.
One large study involving over 80,000 women found that those who consumed the most trans fats increased their diabetes risk by up to 40 percent.
Similar studies, however, did not find any link between trans-fat consumption and increased risk of diabetes.
Meantime, in animal studies, trans fats were found to cause negative effects on the function of glucose and insulin.
They increase inflammatory markers
Excess inflammation is one of the major causes of various chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease.
Both observational studies and clinical trials found proof that trans fats increase inflammation, particularly in overweight and obese individuals.
One study discovered that hydrogenated fat consumption increased the production of inflammatory cytokines linked to atherosclerosis.
Other observational studies showed an association between trans fats and increased inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein.
Such findings suggest that trans fats encourage inflammation, which can lead to several health problems.
They damage your blood vessels
Trans fats are bad news to your blood vessels, too. They are believed to harm the endothelium, the cells that line the inner surface of your lymphatic and blood vessels.
One study showed that dietary saturated fatty acids when replaced by trans fatty acids decrease the levels of HDL or good cholesterol, and impair the ability of the arteries, increasing the risk of CHD.
Which Foods Contain Artificial Trans Fats?
Sadly, many of our favorite foods contain trans fats. These include doughnuts, and baked goods such as biscuits, cakes, and pie crusts.
Trans fats are also contained in cookies, crackers, and frozen pizza, fast food meals, coffee creamer, and refrigerated frostings. While these foods are super good to the palate, they are very harmful to your health.
Packaged foods commonly come with nutrition labels. You can determine the number of trans fats in the Nutrition Facts.
Many labels, however, indicate “0 grams of trans fats”. This means that the food item contains 0 grams to less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.
So, while this may appear as a relief for some, you should not be swayed too easily. It is also essential to note that trans fats are sometimes referred to as partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs).
Don’t get too giddy when you don’t read trans fats in the food packaging. If PHOs are present in the label, it means the food contains trans fats still.
How Can You Avoid Trans Fats?
Since trans fats can only be consumed through your diet, you might want to look into your eating habits and make healthier changes. Below are some of the things that you can do to avoid trans fats:
Make it a habit to read food labels
One of the easiest ways to avoid trans fats is by reading the Nutrition Facts panel on the packaged foods you buy at supermarkets and grocery stores.
Although, in some cases, this may not be enough. Some processed foods do not indicate trans fats on the label even if these fats are present in the food.
Avoid processed foods
Since some packaged foods do not include trans fats in the ingredients list even though they have it, it is best to cut back or completely nix processed foods.
These “convenient” foods not only contain trans fats but are often loaded with refined sugar, artificial ingredients, and other additives as well.
If you don’t want to experience the adverse effects that commonly come with these substances, better nix processed foods from your diet equation.
Use olive oil
There are fats that you can use as a healthier substitute for harmful vegetable oils. Olive oil and coconut oil are both rich in nutrients and antioxidants that offer incredible health perks.
It’s also better to cook at home instead of eating out. Fast food chains and restaurants typically use trans fats when frying and deep-frying foods.
Home cooking gives you a free hand to pick healthier alternatives such as olive oil for cooking. Plus, you'll get to save extra bucks, too!
Add more healthy fats to your diet
Not all fats are bad for you. Unsaturated fats are considered good for your health because they help to reduce the levels of LDL or bad cholesterol that block your arteries.
Some studies also claim that this type of fats also helps to regulate insulin and blood sugar levels, preventing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Luckily, you can consume these healthy fats through nutrient-dense foods like avocado, dark chocolate, chia seeds, olives, salmon, tuna, tofu, and walnuts!
Reduce your intake of commercial fried and baked goods
Some of the yummiest foods we can ever consume are unfortunately dense in trans fats. Cookies, crackers, cakes, pies, and muffins are some of the foods that may contain trans fats.
Fried foods typically sold in fast food outlets are also more likely to contain trans fats due to the oil used in cooking them. If you want to avoid trans fats, reduce your intake of these foods.
Natural trans fats from animal products are generally considered safe for consumption. It’s a different case, though, with artificial trans fats, which are present in many processed foods.
Several studies found a link between these unhealthy fats and increased risk of diseases, so it’s best to avoid munching on foods that contain them.
Try your best to stick to a nutritious diet by eating healthy fats like avocado, eggs, tuna, salmon, and nuts. And of course, don’t forget to keep a healthy lifestyle and get adequate rest to further boost your health.