If someone offers you a baked snack, chances are it contains a mixture of fat. Not just naturally occurring fats, but rather the kind that could raise your risk for developing high cholesterol, auto-immune disease, chronic inflammation, cancer, hormone imbalance, infertility, growth problems, learning disabilities in children, and promote your chances of developing heart disease. These semi-liquid, hydrogenated fats, otherwise known as trans-fats, happen to be hiding in many of today’s most popular food products, including french fries, chicken nuggets, milk products, breads, muffins, pies, chips, salad dressings, sauces, candy, and microwave popcorn.
It would be simple to just try and avoid these products altogether and cook from home, but label reading has become an arduous process for the general consumer. According to the FDA, saying a packaged food item has zero trans-fats doesn’t actually have to mean just that. Because of a loophole, food products which contain less than half a gram per serving of trans-fats are not required to be listed. Even if a product is marketed as being healthy – extra fiber, low-sugar, organic, and natural – these hidden, molecularly unstable fats can accumulate in the body. In fact, the average American eats almost 12 grams of trans-fats per day, and since most folks struggle with accurate serving sizes, the chance to eat three, four, or five servings in one common sitting is extremely common.
The American Heart Association states that two grams per day of trans-fats is the limit, but the reality is that your body cannot safely absorb any amounts of these so-called fats. Man-made trans-fats give food a longer shelf life, but they are also completely indigestible. Molecularly speaking, trans-fats hydrogen atoms repel, stack, stick, and clump together. However, natural fats have double bonds on the same side of the chain which makes them easily bend instead of clog. Remarkably, trans-fats are even created when oils are overheated. Even though you are cooking with natural oils, you could be exposing yourself to very low levels.
Trans-fats are everywhere in our society, but they can be avoided with a few careful tips. First off, make sure to eliminate all processed foods from your diet. Secondly, use only natural, organic sources of butter instead of margarine, spreads, and man-made oils. If it has a label, read its entire contents for hidden traces of trans-fats. If you have to eat out, minimize your risk by going as raw as possible. Remember, good forms of saturated fat are essential for cellular health, are loaded with nutrients, and raise good cholesterol – they are not the culprit.
Even though it has taken the mainstream food industry over fifty years to understand the dangers of trans-fats, most foods that come in a box or are cooked in oil still contain them to this day. By misleading the general public, large food companies are choosing to ignore millions of families and individuals that have the right to make a sensible, healthy food choice. It’s up to consumers to start demanding better food and laws that prohibit the use of genetically modified foods. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to come.