As a consumer today you no doubt have seen the marketing campaigns and labels that say 0 grams “Trans Fat.” So what is trans fat and what does that really mean. Well good question, because most people don’t really know.
Trans fat is really just another name for an unsaturated fat that contains trans-isomer fatty acids. So to start out, there are two type of fats. Saturated fats which are typically found in processed foods and animal products and unsaturated fats which are typically found in nature and in foods such as nuts, olives and avocados. These unsaturated fats are generally referred to as good fats and can actually help certain aspects of health. Another easy way to distinguish the two fats is a saturated fat is solid at room temperature and an unsaturated fat is liquid at room temperature, which also give you a pretty good picture of what that particular fat is going to do once inside your body.
Now, onto the Trans part, this is where it gets a little more interesting. Trans fat or “trans fatty acids” are not naturally occurring at all although technically classified as an unsaturated fat. It is manufactured in a lab by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils to make them more solid in a process called hydrogenation. So yes Trans Fats are solid at room temperature as well and without getting too in depth, they can be both polyunsaturated or monounsaturated, but never plain saturated. Ha, yea I know sorry about that technical stuff.
In layman’s terms, trans fat is a low cost, easy to produce industrial food additive often used in foods to add texture and flavor. It also acts as a preservative to the food and is known more commonly under its other name “partially hydrogenated oils.” So if you see either trans fat or partially hydrogenated oils on the label steer clear.
The American Heart Association has linked trans fat to increased bad cholesterol (LdL) levels and decreased good cholesterol (HdL) levels. They go on to say, and I quote “Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.” -American Heart Association
So basically, stay away from it, its bad for you and can lead to heart attacks, strokes, obesity and type 2 diabetes among other things says the American Heart Association.
So where can you find these trans fats hiding? Unfortunately in a lot of places, but there are a few key suspects: French fries, pie crusts, cookies and crackers, shortening and margarine, pastries and doughnuts and unfortunately even pizza dough. There are even a few trans fats that occur naturally as well in meat and dairy including beef and lamb.
Now here is where it gets really weird is in how they are allowed to label products containing trans fat. In fact its not uncommon to see a product that clearly states it contains partially hydrogenated oil under ingredients, but then claims 0 grams trans fat on the label. So what gives? Well it appears that some companies have been allowed to mark their product 0 grams trans fat as long as it says under .5 grams trans fat per serving. So it could potentially have .49 grams of trans fat and still say 0 on the label. So, that said, be careful with everything you see on the store shelves and use your better judgment, because 0 does not necessarily mean 0 and it can add up pretty quick. To avoid trans fats all together, be sure to look at the ingredients and the label to look for hydrogenated oils as well as 0 grams trans fat.
So now you are armed with the real in formation on What The Hell Trans Fat is so you can make informed choices on whether or not you want to continue putting it in your body.