There may be a silent killer in your kitchen, of which you are not even aware. This killer has contributed to the deaths of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people.
You may have heard about “trans fats” and how they aren’t good for us. But what exactly are trans fats and what is so harmful about them? What foods are they found in? How can we avoid them?
Trans fat is a type of fat made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil through a process called “hydrogenation”. This process makes the oil less likely to spoil, so that manufacturers can keep it on the shelves for longer, without need for refrigeration. It is also used in many fried foods in restaurants, as they can be used for longer than most conventional oils before becoming rancid.
Why are trans fats so dangerous?
Eating trans fats increases your cholesterol more than do other types of fats. It’s thought that the process of hydrogenation makes the oil more difficult to digest. Trans fats have an unhealthy effect on your cholesterol levels- they increase your LDL (“bad cholesterol”) and decrease your HDL (“good cholesterol”). If your LDL is too high, over time, it can cause a dangerous accumulation of fatty deposits on the walls of your arteries, which can block the flow of blood to your heart and brain. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Scary!
Studies have also suggested a link between eating trans fats and developing cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, diabetes, obesity, liver dysfunction, infertility in women, and even depression.
How do you know whether food contains trans fat?
Look for the words “partially hydrogenated” vegetable oil on the food label. That’s another term for trans fat. If the ingredient list contains partially hydrogenated vegetable (or corn, soybean, or canola) oil or vegetable shortening, the product contains trans fats. Many packaged baked goods- such as crackers, cookies, cakes, and pastries- and many fried foods- such as doughnuts, french fries, and fried chicken- contain trans fats. Shortenings and some margarines can be high in trans fat. Even unexpected foods, such as breads and cereal, can contain trans fats.
Be careful, because in the United States if a food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, the food label can read “free” of trans fat. Though that’s a small amount of trans fat, if you eat multiple servings of foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, you could easily eat more than you realize.
Tips for Lowering Trans Fat Intake
- Choose healthy fats, such as olive oil, coconut oil, butter from grass-fed cows, raw nuts, avocado, and palm oil.
- Avoid eating packaged baked foods (cookies, pies, donuts, etc.), snack foods, and processed foods, including fast foods. To be on the safe side, assume that all such products contain trans fats unless they are labeled otherwise. Most processed snack foods also contain a great deal of sugar, preservatives, artificial flavors and colors, and other unhealthy additives.
- Get in the habit of reading nutrition labels. Our bodies are a trust from Allah SWT and we must know what we are putting into our bodies. If you can’t pronounce something on the ingredients list, chances are it’s something not good for you.
- To avoid trans fats in restaurants, avoid deep-fried foods (like french fries) and desserts.