FLC Healthy Habit 8

Avoid Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogenated Fats

This is a big one. Check the labels and avoid foods that list hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils/fat (also know as Trans fats) in the ingredients. These are the bad fats. Unlike other dietary fats, trans fat — also called trans-fatty acids — both raises your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lowers your HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

Researchers from Wake Forest University discovered eating trans fats increased the amount of fat around the belly. “Diets rich in trans fat cause a redistribution of fat tissue into the abdomen and lead to a higher body weight even when the total dietary calories are controlled.” Trans fats create inflammation, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. They contribute to insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Here is an important statistic, even small amounts of trans fats can harm health: for every 2% of calories from trans fat consumed daily, the risk of heart disease rises by 23%.

Granted, trans fats are found in small amounts in meat or dairy but they are primarily formed through an industrial heating process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, which causes the oil to become solid at room temperature. As a result foods made with it are less likely to spoil and have a longer shelf life. Good for shelf life, not good for you.

I’m not bashing fat. We need some fat in our diet. It’s a major source of energy and helps you absorb some vitamins and minerals. Fat is needed to build cell membranes, muscle movement and more. But some fats are good and some fats are bad in the long run. Good fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Bad ones include industrial-made trans fats (hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fat). Saturated fats fall somewhere in the middle.

Make it your goal to avoid hydrogenated fats entirely but if you insist on eating hydrogenated fat containing foods, the suggested safe limit is 2 grams per day. If you see the words hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated or interesterified fat (a new and unhealthy type of fat that food chemists have learned that if you put fully hydrogenated fats through a few more processes, they become less solid and product friendly — often found in wraps and burrito shells), pick something else.

How to do it?

  • Pick farm to table. Choose foods in their original purest form. Fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, dairy, cheese, fish, organic meats, and whole grain foods do not contain hydrogenated fats.
  • Avoid deep-fried foods.
  • Avoid “breaded” foods.
  • Avoid margarine and tub spreads.
  • Read the labels of all the food items you buy and avoid buying anything with the words “hydrogentated”, “trans-fatty acids”, “partially hydrogenated fats”, and “shortening” (yes crisco) listed in the ingredient category.
  • Prepare your own food from original ingredient
  • Limit convenient foods
  • Limit eating out. Most store and restaurant breads contain hydrogenated fats. Most eating establishments use bread products containing hydrogenated fats and cook with shortening or margarine. Good to know what your favorite eateries use to cook with and avoid fast food.

Go natural. I like to eat food in its simple, natural, organic form. If I buy prepared or packaged food I want to be able to recognize and understand what each ingredients is versus a chemistry assignment.


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