Every aisle of the grocery store has packages which proudly tout “trans fat free”. In June 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an order strictly limiting the amount of trans fats in America’s food supply. Food manufacturers are scrambling to replace their products’ trans fats with a healthier, more natural ingredient. Obviously, this fat is something to be avoided. But, why are trans fats bad for you? Here’s what you need to know about this unpopular ingredient.
Trans fats are a by-product of an industrial process
When natural, saturated fats mistakenly fell out of favor, food formulators needed a replacement which delivered the same qualities. They discovered that an inexpensive chemical process called hydrogenation produces a shelf-stable alternative. Unfortunately, it also produces trans fats, considered by many doctors to be the worst fat you can eat.
Trans fats are bad for your cardiovascular system
Trans fats increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol. This contributes to the development of plaque which can clog arteries and make them less flexible. Trans fats also lower your HDL (good) cholesterol, reducing your ability to remove the plaque-forming cholesterol from your arteries. This combination increases your risk of developing heart disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says reducing trans fat consumption may prevent 20,000 heart attacks a year. Diets high in trans fats also increase your risk of having a stroke or developing type 2 diabetes.
How to avoid trans fats
The FDA’s ban won’t remove trans fats from the food supply until June 2018. In the meantime, they recommend reading your packaged food’s ingredient label, even if it states “trans fat free”. If it lists partially hydrogenated oils, the food contains trans fats.
Malaysian sustainable palm oil is a better-for-you trans fat replacement. Palm oil’s unique composition can deliver the same qualities of partially hydrogenated oils without the unhealthy trans fats. Malaysian sustainable palm oil has a neutral effect on cholesterol, similar to olive oil. Health experts also suggest using palm oil for high-temperature uses, because it stands up to heat without breaking down into dangerous chemicals.
Robin Miller is a health and nutrition editor with more than 30 years of industry experience. She researches and writes about the nutritional benefits of palm fruit oil, with the goal of giving readers factual, science-based information that will be useful in their daily lives.