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What to Know About Processed Foods That Contains Trans Fats

What to Know About Foods That Contains Trans Fats

The US government has made it mandatory for food companies to provide nutrition labels on their products. You may be aware that the FDA requires certain quantities of trans fat in processed foods such as margarine, baked goods, and snacks. But knowing which ones should be avoided and making the right choices takes a bit of work.

Processed foods are everywhere in malls, shops and the market. They might seem to be a much cheaper option for you, but the truth is some of these foods are not good for your health.

Food manufacturers have found ways to take out the fat by melting it and then adding hydrogen to make it solid again, this type of process prolongs the shelf-life of these foods and introduces trans fat into the food at higher levels than before.

Trans fat in processed foods is a type of unsaturated fat that is unhealthy, it has been linked to increased risk of heart disease and cancer.

An article published by consumer reports states:

Consumption of trans fats should be as low as 1% of their calories. Some trans fats are natural, but the majority of it are made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which may be found in processed foods.

This advice has been recommended by several health organizations, including the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

In this post, we want to know about processed foods that contains trans fats, it’s effects on heart health and how to limit the amount.

What Is Trans Fat and Why Is It Seen As The Bad Culprit?

Unhealthy fats include the trans fat and saturated fats. Although trans fat can occur naturally in small quantities in some animal products, the majority of dietary trans fat is artificial and they are found in processed foods.

Trans fat is naturally found in small amounts in beef, lamb, and full-fat dairy products but artificial trans fat is formed as a result of partial hydrogenation of plant oils. The process of hydrogenation can increase the shelf life and food flavor of the food item.

Partial hydrogenation reduces the amount of saturated fats in oil, which are deemed unhealthy.

Trans fat is commonly found in vegetable shortenings, margarine, cream crackers, popcorn, biscuits and cookies, snack foods, candies, baked and fried goods.

Various studies have shown that artificial trans fats are worse than saturated fats because while both elevate the bad cholesterol, trans fats also reduce the good cholesterol.

Now food industries prefer PHVOs because these are cheap and renders the desirable taste, texture and long shelf life to food.

Typical foods which have high trans fats content are commercially fried foods like chips, cakes, biscuits, cookies, puffs and pastry pie.

Reheating of oil above 180 degrees also produces trans fats. Today, the major sources of industrial trans fats in people’s diets come from products which are made using PHVOs and fried food which are prepared in commercial fryers on the street where oil is repeatedly reheated.

What Regulation Says About Trans Fats

The WHO recommends that trans fat intake should be limited to less than 1% of total energy consumption and has called for the total elimination of trans fats in global food supply by 2023.

In 2015, the FSSAI set the maximum TFA limit in foods in the country at 5%. It has now proposed to further limit it to 2% and totally eliminate TFAs from foods by 2022. The FSSAI says that it’s plan is backed by vanaspathi makers, food companies and bakery associations who support the move and have pledged to make the necessary changes.

However, in the market, even the current upper limit of 5% TFA is not met by many industry players, especially those in the huge network of unorganized food manufacturers, and the enforcement has been slacking.

Effect Of Trans Fat On Health

Trans fats are considered to be more harmful to health than saturated fats because:

  • They decrease good cholesterol.
  • Trans fats increases bad cholesterol levels in the body which is the main cause for the development of coronary heart disease.
  • Several studies have also examined their effects on type II diabetes, some cancers, strokes and food sensitivities.

Evidence has reported that substituting oleic acid with trans unsaturated fatty acid isomers raised low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and lowered high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

In contrast, saturated fats increased LDL but did not decrease HDL cholesterol when compared with oleic acid. The adverse effect of trans fatty acids on the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol was about twice that of saturated fats.

According to reports by Prof. Fred Kummerow of University of Illinois, trans fats blocks the cellular machinery that keeps blood moving through arteries and veins. In the study, Kummerow described the two main causes of heart disease are sudden blood clots in the coronary arteries, and atherosclerosis. Trans fats contribute to both of these causes of heart disease.

He claimed that trans fats displace and cannot replace the essential fatty acids omega-6 and linolenic acid, which the body needs for a variety of functions such as blood flow regulation.

The Impact of TFA on Heart Health

When you eat more commercially prepared foods that contains trans fats such as cake, pop tarts, breaded chicken, microwave popcorn than fruits, vegetables, and whole grain, they increase the risk of developing heart disease at an earlier age.

Generally, a person gets heart disease later in life, but more consumers are beginning to show early signs of heart disease such as high blood cholesterol.

Individuals with higher dietary TFA intake possess increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels and lowering high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels.

Replacing just 2% of energy with unhydrogenated unsaturated fat instead of TFA reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 53%.

Epidemiological data have provided believing proof that the inclusion of TFAs in our diet is related with an adoption of cardiovascular disease. Dietary TFAs have been linked to coronary heart disease and an increased incidence of myocardial infarction.

How To Limit Trans Fat In Your Diet

To limit trans fats in your diet:

  • Eat foods that are high in MUFA and polyunsaturated fats, low in saturated fats, and does not contain cholesterol.
  • Limit the use of solid margarines. Choose soft spread margarines; these products generally contain no trans fat. When purchasing margarine and other fats, take some time to look at the food label to see if the product contains trans fat.
  • Read the nutrition facts label to see the amount of trans fat in foods. Choose foods that have 0 grams of trans fat. However, some food products that contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat list the product as having 0 grams of trans fat. If the ingredient list contains any partially hydrogenated oil in the product you know that there is trans fat in the product.
  • Include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk, eggs, beans, peas, and nuts in your diet.

The Bottom Line

The fewer trans fats you allow in your diet the healthier you will be. Most trans fats can be found in processed foods and other baked goods in the form of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Check nutrition facts labels on the processed food to find the amount of trans fat on a product, and use the tips above to reduce the amounts of trans fats in your diet.

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