Why You Should Avoid Trans Fats
This is likely not the first time you have been told to avoid trans fats, as it is one of the worst fats you can consume. The higher the trans fat content you eat, the higher your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease. The Mayo Clinic states that trans fat can raise both your LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol. If you raise the LDL too much, you are at great risk for heart disease. Here are some things to know about trans fats and why you should avoid them.
About Trans Fats
Trans fats are added to a wide range of foods, mostly those that are not healthy or good for you. It is made in a process called hydrogenation by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. It is done because it helps the oil spoil a lot slower. Therefore, it is most often used in packaged and processed foods, as it helps to increase the shelf life of these foods, yet they don’t feel as greasy. Just by adding the hydrogen to oil increases the cholesterol in the body. Foods with the highest amount of trans fats include baked goods like cookies and cakes, and fried foods, such as French fries and donuts. There are also other fats used in cooking or baking that contain trans fats, like margarine and shortening. Luckily, manufacturers have become aware of the health concerns with trans fats and are starting to use less and less of it in their foods.
Read Your Food Labels
In order to determine what foods contain a lot of trans fats, you should learn to read labels. On the front or back of the label, look for “partially hydrogenated oil.” This means hydrogen has been added to vegetable oil, which then converts it into trans fats. This may be on the front of the label or in the ingredients list. When a food does not contain trans fats, it is usually made obvious on the label to encourage healthy shoppers to purchase their food item. On the other hand, the label “complete hydrogenated oil” or “fully hydrogenated oil” does not have trans fats. There may be some trans fats in dairy or meat products, but it isn’t as dangerous as processed foods or baked goods.
Dangers of Trans Fats
According to the American Heart Association, having a high LDL cholesterol level is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease. Consuming a lot of trans fats can then convert to a high amount of the bad type of cholesterol. The high LDL levels lead to the accumulation of fatty deposits in your arteries, which then stop blood from flowing properly to your arteries. Another harmful effect of trans fats is increasing triglycerides, which is a fat in your blood. This can also cause your arteries to harden. Other dangers of trans fats include leading to inflammation of your blood vessels and fatty deposits of these blood vessels.
Aside from reading the labels and avoiding trans fats, it’s easy to choose proper and healthy food options that don’t contain a lot of this dangerous type of fat. Some oils that are healthy and found in foods as an alternative to trans fats include palm, palm kernel and coconut oil. While these are better than trans fats, they still contain saturated fat, so you should eat these foods in small amounts. The healthiest option is monounsaturated fat, such as what you find in canola, peanut and olive oil. This includes fish, nuts and other foods with omega-3 fatty acids.