Trans fats are the bad boys of the diet world. Destructive, mean and nasty, they are an unforgiving ruler. Sure they taste good, but that is just a ruse to entice us to eat them so they can crate havoc in our body once we do. As the name implies, they are unsaturated fats that have “trans” double bonds.
Trans fats can be:
a) Monounsaturated Trans Fats
- Have only one trans double bond
b) Polyunsaturated Trans Fats
- Have more than one trans double bond
While some naturally occurring trans fats exist, most are created artificially by partial hydrogenation of cis unsaturated fatty acids. Why would anyone want to do that? It is done for the purpose of better preservation. Cis unsaturated fats, mostly oils, are not very stable at room temperature and go rancid easily. To prolong their shelf life, food industry transforms cis double bonds into trans bonds. Trans fat are solid, have higher melting temperature, are less prone to oxidation and have a longer shelf life. During processing, cis fats, ie. oils, are heated to high temperatures and subjected to hydrogenation process to produce fats with trans double bonds, such as shortening and margarine. Trans fats are therefore unsaturated fats in solid form with trans bonds in place of cis. Unfortunate consequence is that while trans double bonds may be better for long storage they are very bad for our health. To make matters worse food with trans fats hide well. This is why we really do have to read that label.
The largest sources of trans fats are margarine and shortening, and following that whatever is fried or prepared using them. Take fries, chicken fingers and egg rolls for example – restaurants fry them in whatever is most affordable – shortening. Tasty cinnamon buns, scones and pies- full of trans fat shortening. Croissants – made with lots and lots of margarine. Muffins? Oh yes- trans fats all the way. Trans fats are present in almost all ready made, fast, fried and restaurant food. Why? It is dirt cheap. Everyone wants to make a buck and they do not really care what happens to you after you eat it. After all it is your choice.
So let’s look at some common trans fat filled foods. Trans fats are found in pot pies, chips, cakes, cookies, fried chicken, fried fish, pastries, brownies, donuts, nachos, nachos cheese dip, cheese wiz, processed cheese singles, fries, mayonnaise, dips, spreads and salad dressings, fried spring rolls, pizza, cream cheese, cake cream filing, ice cream, all industrial snack foods, puddings, whipped cream, chocolate spreads, pizza mixes, cake mixes, pancake mixes, chocolate drink mixes, processed cheese like mozzarella and cheddar, buttered microwave popcorn, buttered cinema popcorn, processed foods, including ready meals, ready finger foods, minute soups, cheese crackers, all fast food and many many more.
But – most of us would argue – that cuts out all the good stuff! Yes and no. There are few tricks to get all that nice food and cut the trans fats too.
The trick number one is – read the label and do not buy anything that has trans fat listed. Trick number two – in a restaurant ask what kind of oil is food prepared with – then ask to have it prepared in olive or regular liquid oil. Trick number three – make home french fries or your favorite sinful snack with olive oil or soybean oil. Better yet, do not use oil at all – dip raw precut home fries into egg whites and bake them in the oven, turning them over once. No fat whatsoever! Forget about margarine or shortening in cakes and pastries. Add oil instead. Oil works just as well, if not better. Make home made mayonnaise by mixing egg yolks with olive oil and a small teaspoon of mustard. Trick number four – carry fruits and veggies for snacks. Trick number five - consult Herbal Diet today for tasty treats that do not have trans fats.