You probably know by now that trans fats are bad for your health – but are there any good trans fats? Let’s take a look…
Trans fats have gotten a bad rap in recent years due to their link to heart disease and other modern diet-related diseases such as cancer and diabetes. In fact, these processed man-made fats have recently been banned from use in the United States, although they do continue to show up in small amounts in some foods, and the oils that are replacing them aren’t much better (more on this below). So why are they so bad for you, and are ALL trans fats the same, or are there some good trans fats?
Here’s a quick look at the bad side of trans fats, according to Mike Geary, nutrition specialist and author of The Fat-Burning Kitchen and Do This, Burn Fat:
[Man-made trans fats] are represented by any artificially hydrogenated oils. The main culprits are margarine, shortening, and partially hydrogenated oils that are in most processed foods, junk foods, and deep-fried foods.
These hydrogenated oils are highly processed using harsh chemical solvents like hexane (a component of gasoline), high heat, and pressure, have a metal catalyst added, and are then deodorized and bleached. A small % of the solvent is allowed to remain in the finished oil. This has now become more of an industrial oil rather than a food oil, but somehow (until recently) the FDA still allowed the food manufacturers to put this crap in our food in huge quantities, even with the well-documented health dangers.
These hydrogenated oils cause inflammation inside of your body, which signals the deposition of cholesterol as a healing agent on artery walls. Hence, hydrogenated oil = inflammation = clogged arteries. You can see why heart disease has exploded since this crap has been loaded into our food supply over the last 5 to 6 decades.
Don’t be fooled by the new onslaught of foods claiming “trans-fat-free “… if they use heavily refined oils (even if they’re non-hydrogenated), it’s still pure evil for your body, and very inflammatory.
So that’s the bad side, some of which you probably already knew. But are there good trans fats out there, too? Mike says yes – if they’re natural, and not man-made:
Natural trans fats are created in the stomachs of ruminant animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, etc., and make their way into the fat stores of the animals.
Therefore, the milk fat and the fat within the meat of these animals can provide natural healthy trans fats (best in grass-fed organic versions only).
Natural trans fats in your diet have been thought to have some potential benefits to aid in both muscle building and fat loss efforts. However, keep in mind that the quantity of healthy trans fats in the meat and dairy of ruminant animals is greatly reduced by mass-production methods of farming and their grain and soy heavy diets. Meat and dairy from grass-fed, free-range animals always have much higher quantities of these beneficial fats.
One such natural trans fat that you may have heard of is called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and has been marketed by many weight loss companies. Keep in mind that these man-made CLA pills you see in the stores may not be the best way to get CLA in your diet. They are artificially made from plant oils in a manner similar to hydrogenation, instead of the natural process that happens in ruminant animals. Once again, man-made fats just can’t compare to the benefits of natural sources.
Be sure to keep in mind that if trans fat is listed on any processed food label it is almost certainly NOT the good kind! Even though trans fats have now been “banned” from use in food in the U.S., the fact is that the labeling laws still allow a manufacturer to label a food as “trans-fat-free” if 1 serving contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat.
This is tricky because it means that a processed food can still contain a fairly high amount of trans fats – as long as the serving size is small enough to fall under the 0.5-gram limit – and still be called trans-fat-free! It’s just one more way that the food manufacturing industry tries to keep us eating their processed foods, at a great detriment to our health…
Instead of worrying about “fat content” on labels, choose whole, natural, minimally processed foods instead (the kind that don’t usually need an ingredients label), and you’ll find you’re not only healthier, but slimmer, happier, and have more energy to enjoy life!
Image Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo / svanhorn