What are Trans Fats (aka. partially hydrogenated oil) and why should you make every effort to stay away from them?
Unfortunately, trans fats are found almost everywhere a concerned parent might look. They're usually created when vegetable oil is hydrogenated — altered with hydrogen — to make it solid at room temperature (think oil versus margarine). That solidity helps make potato chips crunchy and pie crusts tender. It also makes food more shelf stable, which means if a food is boxed or wrapped and sold in a grocery store, there's a good chance trans fats are lurking inside.
Nutritionists used to think trans fats were the healthy alternative to saturated fat, but that was before the evidence against them started piling up. In the 1990's, at least six major studies found that trans fats raised the ratio of "bad" LDL cholesterol to "good" HDL cholesterol; other research has found that trans fats can raise triglycerides, another risk factor for heart disease. Three large investigations — the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, the Nurses' Health Study, and the Alpha- Tocopherol Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Trial — strengthened the link between heart attacks and trans fats. Researchers suggest a reason: Trans fats trigger widespread systemic inflammation.
According to Jeffrey Aron, MD, an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. "Emerging data strongly suggests that cancer and dementia are made worse by trans fats. Putting trans fats into your body is like dropping fine grains of sand into a Swiss watch. Eventually, the system shuts down." With that being said, with just a little more focus and interest in what you eat, the higher the probability of a healthy lifestyle for years to come.
Currently, the USDA advises the public to simply watch our intake (daily consumption is about 5.8 g). But, the accumulating anti-trans research has led some public health groups to suggest tighter limits. The American Heart Association, for one, recommends reducing your intake to less than 1 percent of daily calories, or about 2 grams. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, DC, nutrition policy advocacy group, urges a zero tolerance policy. As CSPI head Michael F. Jacobson, PhD, explains, "Trans fats account for as many as 50,000 deaths a year."
As of now, labels just do not tell you everything! Since January of 2006, federal law has mandated that all Nutrition Facts labels list trans fats under the line item for saturated fat. Simply by checking labels at the supermarket, you will discover that many of the snack foods in the American home are loaded with Trans Fats! Many food manufacturers today are indicating "No Trans Fats" or "Trans Fat: 0 grams" on their packaging but does it really have zero Trans Fats? Mr. Jacobson, claims that some of the foods labeled trans-fat free are not! He states that packaging can be deceptive. If even if the package says 0 grams trans fat, by law it can contain up to half a gram per serving. With that being said, when is the last time Americans ate one serving of anything based on the suggested serving size per the packaging? The American Heart Association recommends that we consume a maximum of 2 grams of trans fat per day. However, they also state that there is enough naturally occurring trans fat in some meat and dairy products that most people already reach this maximum 2 grams without the additional consumption of the man-made trans fat found in so many different types of food. It is very easy to intake just a few servings a day and find yourself in dangerous trans-land.
Still, it is possible to shop smart. Stores like Whole Foods and Wild Oats Markets have instituted a total ban. Otherwise, scrutinize the ingredients list; the words shortening, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated are the number one tip-off that trans fats are present. Finally, search out USDA-certified organic products; the process of hydrogenation is forbidden under current organics regulations.
But then again, many Americans today barely eat at home and tend to prefer prepared food as their nutritional path. Please be aware that there is no law that says restaurants, delis, or coffee shops have to reveal their ingredients, so finding the trans fats on a menu is nearly impossible. It is suggested that fast food is the most abundant source of trans fat, with desserts, donuts, and pastries coming in second place.
With all that being said, there is a simple and effective way of lowering trans fats from your life almost completely. It is called "Using Your Vita-mix®!" Simply live by the rule "If it does not rot or sprout, then throw it out!"
The Top 10 Foods you should eliminate from your families diet immediately!
Margarine is a twisted sister -- it's loaded with trans fats and saturated fats, both of which can lead to heart disease. Other non-butter spreads and shortening also contain large amounts of trans fat and saturated fat:
Stick margarine has 2.8 grams of trans fat per tablespoon, and 2.1 grams of saturated fat.
Tub margarine has 0.6 grams of trans fat per tablespoon, and 1.2 grams of saturated fat.
Shortening has 4.2 grams of trans fat per tablespoon, and 3.4 grams of saturated fat.
Butter has 0.3 grams of trans fat per tablespoon, and 7.2 grams of saturated fat.
Tip: Look for soft-tub margarine, because it is less likely to have trans fat. Some margarines already say that on the packaging.
Important note: When cooking with margarine or shortening, this will not increase the amount of trans fat in food. Cooking is not the same as the hydrogenation process. Margarine and shortening are already bad, but you won't make them any worse. We suggest you use a healthier substitute!
Cake mixes, Bisquick®, and other mixes all have several grams of trans fat per serving.
Tip: Add flour, or better yet whole grains or whole grain flour and baking powder to your grocery list. The do-it-yourself baking is about your safest bet to avoid trans fat. Be very cautious about using reduced-fat mixes. It is very easy to make cake mixes from scratch, along with fresh whole grain flours with your Vita-mix®!
Ramen noodles and soup cups contain very high levels of trans fat. With your Vita-mix® it is so easy to make gourmet soups from scratch in a matter of minutes! Check out our soup section when you get a chance.
Bad news here: Fries, chicken, and other foods are deep-fried in partially hydrogenated oil. Even if the chains use liquid oil, fries are sometimes partially fried in trans fat before they are shipped to the restaurant. Pancakes and grilled sandwiches also have some trans fat, from margarine slathered on the grill.
Examples: Fries (a medium order) contain 14.5 grams. A KFC® Original Recipe chicken dinner has 7 grams, mostly from the chicken and biscuit. Burger King® Dutch Apple Pie has 2 grams.
Tip: Order your meat broiled or baked. Skip the pie. Forget the biscuit. Skip the fries -- or share them with many friends.
Those yummy frozen pies, pot pies, waffles, pizzas, even breaded fish sticks contain trans fat. Even if the label says it's low-fat, it still has trans fat.
Examples: Mrs. Smith's® Apple Pie has 4 grams trans fat in every delicious slice. Swanson® Potato Topped Chicken Pot Pie has 1 gram trans fat. Banquet® Chicken Pot Pie has no trans fat, but still has quite a bit of fat contents.
Tip: In frozen foods, baked is always heart-healthier than breaded. Even vegetable pizzas aren't flawless; they likely have trans fat in the dough. Pot pies are often loaded with too much saturated fat, even if they have no trans fat, so forget about it.
There is typically more trans fats used in commercially baked products than any other foods. Donuts contain shortening in the dough and are cooked in trans fat.
Cookies and cakes (with shortening-based frostings) from supermarket bakeries have plenty of trans fat. Some higher-quality baked goods use butter instead of margarine, so they contain less trans fat, but more saturated fat.
Examples: Donuts have about 5 grams of trans fat a piece, and nearly 5 grams of saturated fat. Remember, you let your family eat those all of the time! Cream-filled cookies have 1.9 grams of trans fat, and 1.2 grams of saturated fat. Pound cake has 4.3 grams of trans fat per slice, and 3.4 grams of saturated fat.
Here are surprising foods that also contain trans fat!
Breakfast cereal and energy bars are quick-fix, highly processed products that contain trans fats, even those that claim to be "healthy."
Examples: Kellogg's® Cracklin' Oat Bran Cereal has 1.5 grams per 3/4 cup serving. Post® Selects Great Grains has 1 gram trans fat per 1/2 cup serving. General Mills® Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal has .5 grams per 3/4 cup serving. Quaker® Chewy Low Fat Granola Bars Chocolate Chunk has .5 grams trans fat.
Tip: Whole-wheat toast, bagels, and many cereals don't have much fat. Cereals with nuts do contain fat, but it's healthy fat. Remember, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The best solution to a healthy beginning is to start your day with a high-protein, high-fiber Vita-mix® smoothie!
Cookies and Candy
Look at the labels; some have higher fat content than others. A chocolate bar with nuts -- or a cookie -- is likely to have more trans fat than gummy bears.
Examples: Nabisco® Chips Ahoy! Real Chocolate Chip Cookies have 1.5 grams per 3 cookies. Fortune Cookies have trans fat. If you plow through a few handfuls of those, you've put away a good amount of trans fat and your fortune will be known without a paper insert. Another popular favorite that still has trans fats even though they had a huge campaign about removing all of the trans fats is the beloved Girl Scout Cookies. The most popular Girl Scout Cookie sold is the infamous Thin Mint Cookie. Make sure to try our Thin Mint Cookie smoothie. It is dead on and has zero trans fat! Really!
Tip: If you must have chocolate, get dark chocolate -- since it's been shown to have redeeming heart-healthy virtues.
Chips, Popcorn, and Crackers
Shortening provides crispy texture. Even "reduced fat" brands can still have trans fat. Anything fried (like potato chips and corn chips) or buttery crackers have trans fat.
Examples: A small bag of potato chips has 3.2 grams of trans fat. Nabisco® Original Wheat Thins Baked Crackers have 2 grams in a 16-cracker serving. Sunshine® Cheez-It Baked Snack Crackers have 1.5 grams per 27 crackers. Barnum's® Animal Crackers (by Nabisco®) and Stauffer’s® Original Animal Crackers, both contain some amount of trans fat per serving. Pop Secret® contains trans fat (in some cases up to 6 grams per serving).
Tip: Think pretzels, toast, pita bread. Actually, pita bread with a little Vita-mix® peanut butter is really good. It gets even better is you put it in a toaster over for a few minutes!
Toppings and Dips
Non-dairy creamers and flavored coffees, whipped toppings, bean dips, gravy mixes, and salad dressings contain lots of trans fat. However, the bean dip recipes on our site are TFF - trans fat free! Note: Some of the recipes in the ice cream section use non-dairy creamers. We are not fans of these products, but our site contains actual recipes created exactly by the Vita-mix® demonstrators.
Tip: Use skim milk, soy milk, and/or powdered nonfat dry milk or Whole Nectar Soy Protein Powder in coffee. Keep an eye out for fat-free products of all types. As for salad dressings, make awesome dressings perfectly with your Vita-mix®. Natural oils such as olive oil and canola oil do not contain trans fat.
SOURCES: Cindy Moore, MS, RD, director of nutrition therapy at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Consumer Reports: "Bad fats in common foods." FDA: "Questions and Answers about Trans Fat Nutrition Labeling."