Doughnuts, crackers, cookies, pastries, vegetable shortenings, some margarines , potato and corn chips, imitation cheeses,  frostings and candies are  all likely to contain trans fats, even if their labels say otherwise.  All of those products have polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can be damaged and oxidized at high temperatures and converted to trans fatty acids.

Trans fatty acids (hydrogenated oils) have been proven harmful to human health by multiple studies.  The less saturated an oil is, the less resilient to oxidation and rancidity it is, making applying heat to the those polyunsaturated fats toxic. Most of the oils used in commercial frying (think of those chips and crackers) are packaged in clear containers, which starts their oxidation faster because of the light penetrating the bottles.  By the way, when you buy a bottle of oil for home use, make sure it’s made of dark glass, for this reason! As the vegetable oils used by the food processing industry heat up to the temperature high enough for the commercial frying process, they easily oxidize even further and become rancid, thereby creating the unhealthy trans-fatty acids.

“But my favorite chips contain zero grams of trans fat!” – you can say, whilst giving a handful of those chips to little Johnny.

According to the food manufacturers’ guidelines, a product that contains 5% or less of the daily value for saturated fat can be labeled as ” low in saturated fat.” When a label shows “0 grams trans fat per serving,” the food item may actually contain up to 0.49 grams of trans fat per serving. Do you ever eat just one serving of crackers or cookies? Common, it’s like a quarter of  a cup… If you eat multiple servings of foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, it’s easy to exceed the recommended daily limit, which is no more than 1% of a person’s total daily calories be from trans fat. Keep in mind that some foods labeled “zero trans fat” may also contain high amounts of fat, calories and sodium. Frozen entrees, like fried chicken and fried fish are two examples.

Since fast-food chains started replacing saturated frying oils, such as beef tallow and lard, to unsaturated oils in the early 1980s, the  heart disease and obesity rates rose. The typical oils used by the commercial food processing industry today are corn oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, and peanut oil. These oils have been found  to increase in their caloric value upon oxidation, which suggested the altered molecular structure to be easier absorbed by the body than the original fats, eventually leading to obesity, diabetes, cancer, and other health conditions.

Trans fat consumption is associated with heart disease, breast and colon cancer, atherosclerosis, increased triglycerides, Increased Lp(a) lipoprotein, elevated cholesterol, depressed immune system, increased inflammation, and allergies. Unlike other fats, trans-fatty acids raise the “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and lower the “good” (HDL) cholesterol.  A high LDL cholesterol level in combination with a low HDL cholesterol level increases the risk of heart disease. Sounds yummy, huh?

A cookie here and there probably won’t kill you, but it’s important to understand what all of these “low fat” and “no fat” labels actually mean. In my opinion, they mean “bake your own cookies.” I’ll post a good recipe for you tomorrow.