Fats – Healthy or Trans.
Fats – Healthy or Trans; What are you consuming? Fats are an essential part of our food and also our existence. Each cell of our body is made up of lipid and so fat holds an important place in our diet and life. As a food ingredient, fat provides flavor, consistency and stability – and helps you feel full. Infants and toddlers up to two years of age have the highest energy needs per unit of body weight of any age group. Fats are an important source of calories and nutrients for these youngsters. Dietary fats are found in both plant and animal foods. Fat is a major source of energy for the body and aids in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat is also important for proper growth, development and maintenance of good health.
However this goodness of fat has a bad side too. Adults should consume no more than approximately one third of their calories from fat to reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases (such as heart disease), while providing for adequate intake of essential nutrients.
Fats are either saturated or unsaturated, and most foods with fat have both types. Saturated fat is solid at room temperature, which is why it is also known as “solid fat.” It is mostly in animal foods, such as milk, cheese, and meat. Poultry and fish have less saturated fat than red meat. A healthy diet should possess only 10% of daily calories from saturated fat. Unsaturated fat is liquid at room temperature. It is mostly in oils from plants. If you eat unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat, it may help improve your cholesterol levels. Try to eat mostly unsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat are types of unsaturated fat.
Then there is a third type or say extension of unsaturated fat hydrogenised to form saturated that renders some commercially effective properties for our food manufacturers.
Trans fatty foods tantalize our taste buds, enhancing the flavor, texture, and shelf life of many processed foods — from cookies to frozen pizza. Trans fats seemed like such a good thing once, unfortunately, they come with a health risk.
Trans fats are double trouble for our heart. Like saturated fats, trans fats raise LDL “bad” cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease. But unlike saturated fats, trans fats lower HDL “good” cholesterol and may do more damage. The American Heart Association advises limiting saturated fat consumption to less than 7% of daily calories and trans fat consumption to less than 1%.
There are two sources of trans fat, also known as trans fatty acids:
- Trans fat formed naturally – this type of trans fat is produced in the gut of some grazing animals. That’s why small quantities of trans fat can be found in animal products like milk, milk products and meat.
- Trans fat formed during food processing – this type of trans fat is created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil (a process called hydrogenation) to make it more solid. Partially hydrogenated oils are used by food manufacturers to improve the texture, shelf life and flavor stability of foods. About half of the trans fat consumed is formed during food processing and partially hydrogenated oils which are the main source of this type of fat.
Trans fat can be found in:
- Crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies and other baked goods
- Snack foods (such as microwave popcorn)
- Frozen pizza
- Fast food
- Vegetable shortenings and stick margarines
- Coffee creamer
- Refrigerated dough products (such as biscuits and cinnamon rolls)
- Ready-to-use frostings
Understanding the chemistry behind, hydrogenation is the addition of hydrogen atoms to the carbon chain rendering it more and more saturated. Partial hydrogenation reconfigures most of the double bonds that do not become chemically saturated, twisting them so that the hydrogen atoms end up on different sides of the chain. This type of configuration is called trans meaning “across”. Typical commercial hydrogenation is partial in order to obtain a malleable mixture of fats that is solid at room temperature, but melts upon baking (or consumption).
Trans fat has a much higher melting point, 45 °C, than unsaturated fats, 13.4 °C, due to the ability of the trans molecules to pack more tightly, forming a solid that is more difficult to break apart. This notably means that it is a solid at human body temperatures.
In food production, the goal is not to simply change the configuration of double bonds while maintaining the same ratios of hydrogen to carbon. Instead, the goal is to decrease the number of double bonds and increase the amount of hydrogen in the fatty acid. This changes the consistency of the fatty acid and makes it less prone to rancidity (in which free radicals attack double bonds). Production of trans fatty acids is therefore an undesirable side effect of partial hydrogenation.
Animal-based fats were once the only trans fats consumed, but by far the largest amount of trans fat consumed today is created by the processed food industry as a side effect of partially hydrogenating unsaturated plant fats (generally vegetable oils). These partially hydrogenated fats have displaced natural solid fats and liquid oils in many areas, the most notable ones being in the fast food, snack food, fried food, and baked goods industries. They can only be made by cooking with a very high heat, at temperatures impossible in a household kitchen.
Partially hydrogenated oils have been used in food for many reasons. Partial hydrogenation increases product shelf life and decreases refrigeration requirements. Many baked foods require semi-solid fats to suspend solids at room temperature; partially hydrogenated oils have the right consistency to replace animal fats such as butter and lard at lower cost. They are also an inexpensive alternative to other semi-solid oils such as palm oil.
There is an ongoing debate about a possible differentiation between trans fats of natural origin and trans fats of man-made origin, as a study done on natural-origin trans fat found that it could be actually beneficial for health as it lowered total and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in trial. But so far no scientific consensus has been concluded and as such nutritional authorities consider all trans fats as equally harmful for health and recommend that consumption of trans fats be reduced to trace amounts.
As of 2006, food manufacturers have been required by the FDA to list trans fats on food labels. As a result, health-conscious shopping became easier. But there’s more to it than buying products that boast “0 Trans Fats!” That’s because the FDA allows that label on anything with 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.
Get in the habit of reading nutrition labels, the ones headed “Nutrition Facts.”Look at all the fats listed there. Keep in mind that saturated fat is also unhealthy. If the label lists Trans Fat as 0 g, look at the Ingredients List for the words “partially hydrogenated.” Any oil that is partially hydrogenated is a trans fat. So a single serving of cookies could have as much as a half gram of trans fat and be labeled “0 Trans Fats.”
Now you have every detail that you need to know about trans fat so be sure that your plate has the minimum amount of it. When choosing foods with “0 grams trans fats,” evaluate the total fat content including the amount of saturated fat. Choose foods that have the least amount of saturated fat and that use healthy fats such as canola oil in the product.
Authored by: Team, Health Sanctuary