The newest headline in the “fast-food” industry is that KFC will be removing trans-fats from their fryers. Well, I guess that is good news for the conscious person trying to find the healthiest processed foods. Isn’t that an oxymoron?
What is trans-fats and why does the food industry put it in our foods?
Trans-fats, or trans fatty acids are man-made or processed fats. Small amounts occur naturally in meat and dairy products, but they have not been shown to effect our health in an adverse way. These fats are made from a chemical process called hydrogenation. Liquid vegetable oil (otherwise healthy monosaturated fat) is packed with hydrogen atoms and put under high pressure. This results in a solid fat (like that found in Crisco).
Trans fats do the same thing in our bodies that bacon grease does to kitchen sinks. Over time, they can “clog the pipes” that feed the heart and brain, which can lead to heart attack or stroke risk. It raises total and “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels. They raise triglycerides and also strip levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol. The bottom line is- they increase your risk for heart disease.
It seemed like a good alternative in the past when we wanted to stay away from saturated fats like butter. But we now know that margarines and these trans-fats are actually worse for our health than saturated fats.
Why does the food industry use these solid fats? Because they extend the shelf life of food, and they have a pleasing mouth-feel. It is also reusable in deep-fat frying. In other words…its cheap to use.
But is it worth our health?
Children who start at age 3 or 4 eating a steady diet of fast food, pop tarts, commercially prepared fish sticks, stick margarine, cake, candy, cookies and microwave popcorn can be expected to get heart disease earlier than kids who are eating foods without trans fats.
While a person may not get heart disease until they are in their 40s, some research at the University of Maryland has shown that kids as young as 8, 9 and 10 already have the high cholesterol and blood fats that clog arteries.
What can we do?
Start healthy eating habits early. Avoid fast food restaurants as much as possible.
Read labels..look for the word “partially hydrogenated…” or “hydrogenated…” in the list of ingredients and avoid these products. Use alternative products such as Canola margarine, olive oil or Ghee (clarified butter).
It is very easy to find these trans-fats since they are in so many of our foods. The challenge is eliminating them from your life.