These days, there’s a study a minute about the evils of trans fats and how they harm our bodies. But what are they and how do we eliminate this artery-clogging fat from our diets? Read on.
What they are:
Also known as trans fatty acids, trans fats are produced when vegetable fats or oils are chemically altered and hardened through hydrogenation. They’re typically found in foods that already contain some fat, but especially in margarine, candy, cookies and deep-fried foods like chips, crackers and french fries. Note: Small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in certain animal-based foods.
How they work:
Manufacturers have long used this form of fat when making products because it boosts their shelf-life and add crispness to snacks like crackers, chips and cookies.
Why they’re harmful:
Not only do trans fats deplete our supply of high density lipoprotein (good cholesterol), they boost levels of low density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol), clogging arteries and causing our bodies to work harder to protect against heart disease. And because we can’t break down these acids, trans fats have no where to go and eventually build up in the body.
Lower your level:
Your best preventative measure? Work healthy, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, chicken and whole grain products into your diet. Also, start reading nutritional labels, being sure to check out the total fat and saturated fat counts. To get an idea of what a product’s trans fat level is, combine the saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats together. If the total isn’t equal to the total fat listed, what’s left over is usually the amount of trans fatty acids found within the food. TIP: Stay away from any products that list hydrogenated oil as one of its first few ingredients, as these products are chock full of trans fatty acids.
Foods to avoid – and what to replace them with:
- Deep fried foods: Skip the wings, breaded chicken fingers and fries at your favourite pub. Anything that’s been fried in oil is jammed with trans fats. Choose baked options.
- Desserts: Unless you take the homemade route, limit the amount of cookies, cakes and donuts you eat. The versions you buy at grocery stores, restaurants and coffee shops all pack enormous quantities of trans fatty acids.
- Chips and crackers: Choose low-fat versions and go baked where possible.
- Frozen foods: The pizza, frozen entrees and breaded poultry occupying the freezer section pack a whollop when it comes to trans fats. Stick to fresh options.
- Toppings and condiments: Limit your intake of mayo, salad dressing, whipped cream and the like when possible. Instead, choose low-fat choices like oil and vinegar for salads and flavoured yogurt as a dessert topper.