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Trans Fats: Translated

By Sara Butler

Trans fats are bad news for your health. If they sneak onto your plate, then they increase your risk of heart disease since these fats just happen to be professional artery cloggers. The problem is that trans fats aren’t that easy to avoid. They are in many different types of foods. Here’s some more information about trans fats, where you can find them, and how you can avoid them for your continued health and wellness.

What Trans Fat Is

Trans fats are created in a process called hydrogenation. This process adds hydrogen molecules to liquid oils, such as corn oil or vegetable oil. After this process, the oil is then referred to as “partially hydrogenated” when you see it listed on a product’s packaging. If you see this ingredient, then the product contains trans fats.

Why Use Trans Fats?

Manufacturers used to use animals fats such as lard or butter when making fried or baked foods. Scientists eventually discovered that these types of saturated fats were bad for the heart and raised cholesterol levels. So, food companies began to look for a way to make their product without these ingredients -- and that’s where partially hydrogenated oil comes in.

The hydrogenation process that oils go through makes them solid and more stable at room temperature. Companies found that using them in baked goods improved the texture and taste of the final product, so they were used in place of animal fats. It wasn’t discovered until years later just how bad these trans fats are for people.

Where to Find Trans Fats

The most common places you will find trans fats are:

  • Stick margarine
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Store-made baked goods
  • Icing
  • Baking mixes
  • Fried foods
  • Pastries
  • Cookies
  • Snack foods
  • Candies
  • Crackers

It has been found that up to 40 percent of foods on grocery store shelves contain trans fats, which is why the Food and Drug Administration requires companies to list how much trans fats a food contains on the nutrition label.

Are “Zero Trans Fats” Products Safe?

You may notice that many food packages proclaim their products to be free from trans fats. That doesn’t mean the food doesn’t have any in it, though. The FDA regulations state that if one serving of a product has less than half a gram of any nutrient (even trans fat), then it can be proclaimed as containing zero grams of that nutrient on the label.

All this doesn’t mean you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You simply must avoid products that list any partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening or oils on the ingredients list. Your heart will be happy you did!

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Downey, Calif.

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