We do not always know what we are eating. It is not a common practice for us to look up the constituent ingredient of the food products that we consume.
Unknowingly we eat a lot of things that may not always be good for our health. Many times we consume things that we are allergic to and only curb the consumption when our allergy reactions show up.
Trans fats are also a kind of food constituent that we consume unconsciously, not aware that it can cause serious healthy issues. You might have heard the term trans fats mentioned but were not conscious of its meaning.
So, what are trans fats, exactly? Trans fats are a kind of unsaturated fats that, unlike the normal fats in our body, are non organic that is not produced naturally.
They are a kind of chemically or industrially manufactured fats.
How are trans fats produced?
Now that you know what are trans fats, let’s look at how they are made.
In the factory, naturally occurring fats like vegetable oil are hydrogenated or passed through hydrogen to create unsaturated fats commonly known as trans fats.
When liquid hydrogen is passed through vegetable oil, it solidifies the fat by making it unsaturated.
The formula is a lot more complex but this will give you an idea about the unnatural nature of the fat.
Why are trans fats produced?
These fats are industrially manufactured as they have certain desirable properties which are lacking in natural fats, like the property of melting at desirable temperatures.
They are also easier to package and transport and store as compared to other kinds of liquid fats. Unlike butter, you can easily take out margarine, which contains trans fats from the refrigerator and spread it on bread.
You don’t have to wait for the trans fat containing margarine to melt. This hydrogenated unsaturated fat was also found to be good for baking that is, they gave baked goods a superior quality as compared to butter or lard.
The trans fats don’t go bad if kept outside the refrigerator for long hours, unlike animal fats.
These were also cheaper than normal fats and were much used by food outlets for frying food instead of normal saturated fats. Therefore vegetable fats began to be increasingly substituted for animal fats.
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What foods are high in trans fats?
The above information has made you aware of what are trans fats and how they are made, now, we will look at what foods are high in trans fats.
Given below is a list of foods that are high in trans fats. You must be consuming them unawares all this a while. About time you opened your eyes to the unhealthy things you unconsciously consumed.
- French fries, yes big shocker given how your burger meal seems incomplete without it.
- Deep fried or batter fried foods, think beer battered chicken.
- Pies and pie crust, yes the flakiness of that crust comes from trans fats
- Margarine. And you thought it was the healthier option!
- Cake mixes and frostings. Not as pretty as they look after all.
- Pancakes and waffle mixes. There goes your breakfast.
- Fried chicken. The store bought varieties are fried in trans fats.
- Ice cream. Not all but some variants definitely use it to thicken the product.
- Microwave popcorn. What you thought was butter, is actually trans fat.
- Ground beef. The packaged kind has trans fat.
- Cookies and cakes. Store bought cookies and cakes, to increase shelf like and reduce costs use trans fats instead of good old’ butter.
- Biscuits and sweet rolls. The store bought types.
- Breakfast sandwiches. The packaged breakfast sandwiches that are available in the mart contain trans fats to increase shelf life.
- Frozen or creamy beverages. Packaged ice cream soda, bottled smoothies, even shakes at stores.
- Meat sticks. Yep, good bye snacks.
- Crackers. Another popular snack that packs in trans fats.
- Frozen dinners. Increased shelf life? Yes. Cheap? Yes. Trans fats? Yes.
- Ramen noodles. Trans fats reduce costs.
- Packaged pudding. Yep no more of that for dessert.
Why are trans fats unhealthy?
The above lists states the types of food that contain trans fats, now let’s see why are trans fats harmful for our health.
- Numerous researches have shown that trans fats are harmful for the human heart. People who consume more trans fats have risks of increased heart problems. Trans fats when consumed significantly increase the bad cholesterol in the body while having no effect on good cholesterol. Bad cholesterol is one of the major threats to the heart. It causes artery blockage and increase the risk of a heart attack by blockage
- It has been seen that consumption of more trans fats increase the risk of procuring diabetes by 40 percent. They have a negative effect on insulin and glucose function. They reduce the production of insulin as a result the glucose in the blood is not decomposed and turned into energy. This is the cause of diabetes. It also causes fat deposition in the abdomen area.
- Inflammation is the cause of many diseases like heart disease, arthritis, diabetes; metabolic syndrome etc. Trans fats increase the elements that cause inflammation. Trans fats are extremely dangerous for people who are already fat.
- Trans fats have also been found to destroy the lining inside blood vessels. As the trans fats pass in the blood stream they slowly corrode the inner lining. Some studies have also indicated that trans fats can enhance the growth of carcinogenic cells. Though nothing has been proven yet.
What to do instead?
By now you are fully aware of what are trans fats; you must now be made aware of how to avoid it.
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The health ministries have labeled trans fats as unhealthy and they should be mentioned in ingredient section of the food. This has been made mandatory.
Manufacturers have been requested to make their products trans fat free, though a large number of food items still contain trans fats.
One easy way to avoid it is always look at the ingredients of the food that you buy. This way you can avoid purchasing products that contain some percentage of trans fats.
It is important to avoid even the minimum amount of trans fats as all the little bits can build up to a lot in your body.
Change to natural oils like butter, oil, clarified butter, olive oil, coconut oil instead of harmful margarine and vegetable oils.
Try to make things at home. That way you can be sure of the ingredients you are putting in your food.
Try to avoid packaged or junk food as much as possible. These contain the maximum amount of trans fats.
Avoid buying packed dinner or friend chicken, instead cook it at home.
Bake your own desserts instead of relying on store bought options. They are bound to add trans fats to reduce costs.
It is true that modern diets rely to a large extent on store bought items. It is because of the lack of time in hand. But still for the sake of your health, put some effort, make the switch.