Article of the Week July 3 - 7 Trans Fat Free

~~Have You Rid Your Diet of Trans Fats?   Article of the Week July 3 to 7

Two weeks ago we wrote a newsletter that cleared up the confusing statements made by the American Heart Association about coconut oil.  The AHA made a blanket statement that all saturated fats were bad and lumped coconut oil into the same category because of it's high saturated fat content.  To reiterate, not all saturated fats are the same.  Coconut oil contains medium chain (shorter) fats which benefit your health contrary to the harmful long chain fats found in other foods.

At the end of the newsletter I closed by saying you want to avoid trans-fats which are the real enemy in terms of bad fats for your health.  In this newsletter I want to make sure that you understand what trans fats are, how they put your health at risk, how to read labels to ensure you are avoiding trans fats and what are the most common products that contain them.

First of all, trans fats are largely man-made.  A very small amount of trans-fats occur naturally but most of them have been made in a lab by scientists.  This should be our first clue that they can't be good for us.  Trans fats were created in the early 20th century as a means of making liquid vegetable oils more spreadable. 

Trans fats can be found in the following types of foods:  breakfast cereal, pie crust, french fries, salad dressing, margarine, peanut butter, frozen pizza, chips, crackers, cookies, vegetable shortening, cake mixes and frostings, waffle and pancake mixes, fried chicken, coffee creamers, ice cream, microwave popcorn, doughnuts, breakfast sandwiches and frozen dinners.

Trans fats have been conclusively shown to clog your arteries leading to heart attacks and strokes, contribute to diabetes and cause cancer.  In a study released in April of this year, the New York State Department of Public Health implemented restrictions on trans fats in 11 of the State's different counties.  In the years following the restrictions they found a sharp decrease in hospital admissions for myocardial infarction (heart attack) and stroke in the 11 counties that stopped using trans fats compared to the counties that continued to use them.

If you buy processed foods (any packaged food in a can, box, bottle or bag), you need to start to read the labels to ensure they are free of trans fats.  The words on the labels you want to watch for are  “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated”.  For example, “partially hydrogenated soybean oil” or “hydrogenated cottonseed oil”.   “Vegetable shortening” also indicates the presence of trans fat.  To make things even more confusing, food companies are allowed to label their products as containing “0 Trans Fats” if there is less than 0.5 grams per serving.  So even products that claim to not have trans fats can, in fact contain them.  The only way to know is to read the label and look for the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated”

Some countries have banned trans fats entirely, such as Denmark which did so in 2003.  Interestingly, Denmark has seen a 70% decline in coronary disease over the last 30 years.  While there have been more restrictions placed on trans fats and labelling their presence in our foods, our government still hasn't taken the step to ban them entirely so the onus is upon us as individuals to make sure we aren't eating them.

So your homework this week is to read the labels of the foods you routinely eat to see if they contain trans fats.

In the meantime, if you are a french fry lover (a food that often contains trans fats) and you're looking for a healthier alternative, here is a great recipe for sweet potato fries that will satiate your appetite and promote good health.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Tim



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