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The Most Deadly Fat in Our Food

I love hot chocolate. It’s my favorite drink on a cold day. But, it’s hard to find hot chocolate that isn’t loaded down with trans fatty acids. Last month I found a hot chocolate that proudly proclaimed from its label “contains no trans fats!” I was so excited (I’m a foodie and I get excited about stuff like this). I flipped the container over to read the nutrition label, the first ingredient? TRANS FAT!

You’re first question is probably, “how can they do that?” Here’s how food manufacturers get away with pulling the wool over your eyes… The FDA has stated that trans fat only needs to be listed on a food label if the food contains 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. You guessed it. If a food has 0.49 grams of trans fat the food company can say it is TRANS FAT FREE. Trans fats in any amount can be dangerous for your body. In fact, The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 2 grams per day. If I would have drank 2 cups of that hot chocolate, I would be halfway to my recommended total for the day.

Why avoid trans fats?

  1. It raises your LDL, bad cholesterol levels.
  2. It lowers HDL levels.
  3. It increases triglyceride levels.
  4. It can cause inflammation in the body.
  5. It can greatly increase your risk for heart disease (Harvard School of Public Health believes trans fats are responsible for 1 in 5 heart attacks).

Food manufacturers use trans fats because they increase shelf life, keep flavors stable and its very inexpensive. For many years, most of the “junk” foods—cookies, cakes, candies, chips, crackers, and some margarines—were made with hydrogenated (another name for trans fats) oils. But with the negative attention given to trans fats, many manufacturers are cutting back or eliminating their use. But always read your food labels.

Here is what you don’t want on your food label:

  • Hydrogenated
  • Partially hydrogenated 
  •  Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
  • Vegetable shortening

A great quote from Harvard School of Public Health: An analysis of the health effects of industrial trans fats conducted by researchers with the Harvard School of Public Health Department of Nutrition indicates that eliminating trans fats from the U.S. food supply could prevent up to 1 in 5 heart attacks and related deaths. That would mean a quarter of a million fewer heart attacks and related deaths each year in the United States alone. That should motivate you to take a few extra seconds to read your food labels-it certainly motivates me!

5 Comments
  1. Trans fat naturally occurs in some foods, like butter, but are also formed in the processing of some foods where product texture and shelf life are desired. I’ve learned a lot about this subject because I work with the National Association of Margarine Manufacturers. In addition, heart disease runs in my family so I’ve got a personal interest in this subject as well.

    Using new technologies, soft margarine manufacturers have met the challenge and eliminated or reduced trans fat in soft margarine products (also known as “buttery spreads”), making a good product even better. In fact, almost every soft margarine product now shows “0 grams trans fats” on its label. In addition to great taste and convenience, buttery spreads contribute to lower blood cholesterol levels when substituted for butter and it contains vitamin E and essential fatty acids. When comparing soft margarine to butter, many soft margarine products are the recommended alternative as stated by of the American Heart Association, as well as the Federal government’s National Cholesterol Education Program.

  2. There was more heart disease and more premature death from heart disease before the wide use of vegetable shortening (Crisco), partially hydrogenated oils, etc. They replaced satuarated fats in the diet, such as butter and lard.
    Perhaps, the best, most useful advice is to eat less fat.
    Remember the prohibition against eating eggs, in any form, any time? Turned out to be poor advice–eggs, eaten in moderation (the key factor) is actually good for you.
    Your advice is no more useful, no better and not particularly worse, than following what is widely publicized in the newspapers as the…’theory du jour”.

    Eat a wide variety of foods, each in moderation, and none to excess. Total calories in vs. total calories expended is the only equation that really brings on weight loss, or maintains it. Either eat less or exercise more–no other choice exists.

    • Hi Karen: I would love to see the research you mentioned about more heart disease before before the use of hydrogentated fats. That isn’t consistent with the research I’ve read.

      While I agree with you that eating less fat is helpful; it is vitally important that people understand how to read food labels and for them to understand why they should avoid consuming hydrogenated or trans fats.

      As to you comments eating a wide variety of foods-I am in total agreement with you. But, I encourage my readers and clients to avoid “fake” foods, such as artificial sugars and trans fats.

      Sorry you didn’t find the information useful-hopefully you will find the information you are rearching for…

      Best of luck to you!

      Deborah

  3. Agreed, label reading is essential! You should try our -actually- trans fat free cocoas-Canterbury Naturals.

    They’re also natural, free of hydrogenated oils, artificial additives, preservatives or colorings. And delicious. You can decipher this label easily with only 7 ingredients. Check them out at: http://bit.ly/fqJFBr

    • Hi Leigh: I have tried the Canterbury Naturals and I really like them. I love that they only have 7 ingredients-a huge difference when compared to most hot chocolates on the market.

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