Despite their health implications, trans fats are still in many processed foods. When I appeared on Minneapolis’ Fox News, I explained what this ingredient really is, and why manufacturers use it. Malaysian sustainable palm oil is the best trans fat substitute. Palm oil’s natural antioxidants help provide a long product shelf life, as well as offer nutritional benefits. Many American companies are moving to this healthy oil as they rework recipes to comply with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new trans fat ruling.
During the hydrogenation process, hydrogen atoms are added to otherwise healthy mono-unsaturated or polyunsaturated oils. If done completely, the result is a fully hydrogenated, and very solid, fat. If stopped before completion, the result is a semi-solid partially hydrogenated oil. Manufacturers hydrogenate oils because it makes them more shelf-stable. Hydrogenated oil is a convenient ingredient to use in processed food development. The by-product of this industrial process is trans fat. Unfortunately, trans fats are known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says reducing trans fat consumption may prevent 20,000 heart attacks a year. I’ve seen other estimates that up to 100,000 cardiac deaths annually are attributable to trans fats.
The FDA is requiring manufacturers to remove all partially hydrogenated oils from the food supply by June 2018. Until then, many products still contain trans fats. Even some foods which are labeled “trans fat-free” may contain this artificial ingredient because a product can contain up to a half gram of trans fat per serving before legally having to declare it. These small amounts can add up. To truly avoid this unhealthy fat, you need to read labels carefully. You may also need to avoid certain products. For example, almost all microwave popcorn contains trans fats.
Malaysian sustainable palm oil is the best substitute for trans fat. It’s naturally trans fat-free. It’s also rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin E tocotrienols. These help provide the long shelf life manufacturers need, as well as support our brain and heart health. Tocotrienols may also play a role in cancer prevention. When you see palm oil on the label, know you are getting a nutritious and better-for-you oil.