You know you’re supposed to avoid them, but do you know why or what they are?
The supermarket aisles are filled with products labeled “zero trans fats”—and that might have been your first clue that you needed to take trans fats off the menu. But do you know why—or even how to identify a trans fat?
What are Trans Fats?
Trans fatty acids—or trans fats—are made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil through a process called hydrogenation, which makes the oil less likely to spoil. Trans fats can help manufactured foods stay fresher longer and give them a longer shelf life—but they can also have an impact on your health.
The Unhealthy Effects of Trans Fats
There are “good” fats and “bad” fats—but trans fats fall into a category all their own. Trans fats are considered the worst type of fat because they raise your “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lower your “good” cholesterol (HDL). A high level of LDLs can cause a build-up of plaque and result in clogged arteries. This increases the risk of heart disease. No one knows why trans fats increase cholesterol so much more than other types of fats—but researchers have speculated that adding hydrogen to oil makes the oil more difficult to digest.
What’s more—trans fats have been shown to increase triglycerides, which are a type of fat found in the blood that leads to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and increases the risk of stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. Finally, trans fats increase inflammation, which has also been shown to play a key role in the development of heart disease.
In short, trans fats may enhance the flavor, texture, and shelf life of foods—but they can wreak havoc on your health.
Where Trans Fats Hide
Not sure where trans fats hide? Here are some things you may want to avoid:
Avoiding Trans Fats
Trans fats are slowly becoming less common as awareness about their health risks increases. Still—buyer beware is always a good motto. If you want to avoid trans fats, here are some steps you can take:
Tags: Nutritional Know-How