Trans Fat Explained

January 27, 2007

Okay, so what is this eeeeeeeeeeeeevil item that makes our food so magically delicious? And why do we need to cut our intake?

Because I wanted to learn more I began to read. I read books. I read the newspaper. I read online.

I learned, basically, that partially hydrogenated oils are oils that have been hydrogenated. Partially. This process makes the oils solid at room temperature but melty and delicious when they hit your mouth. They also extend shelf life and add to the texture, taste, and appearance. The texture is similar to butter, but the price is cheaper so it’s more economical for the food industry.

Okay, but if they’re only partially hydrogenated than they’re really not that bad, right? Because it’s only like kind-of, sort-of and not really, right? Well, no. Not really. Research has shown that trans fat raises the “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lowers the “good” cholesterol (HDL) which means that the arteries become clogged (remember Dr. Oz’s visual of squeezing the fat through his hands?) which ultimately increases he risk of heart disease and stroke. Additionally, the partial hydrogenation process also removes essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (the good fats), such as linolenic acid (omega 3) and linoleic acid (omega 6).

Okay, so let me get this straight. Partially hydrogenated oils not only clog our arteries they also lower the “good” fats? That can’t be good.

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The journey continues

January 26, 2007

So after I watched Dr. Oz squeeze partially hydrogenated oils through his hand I was sickened. Truly sickened.  And a brand new convert to being  trans fat free.

At the time, my twins were around eight months, and just at that age where they are enjoying a good cracker and some Cheerios.  Blindly, I handed them the crackers and, as an afterthought, checked the box of Saltines.  Trans fat was listed as “0 g” so it should be okay, right?

Wrong.

Listed between high fructose corn syrup and malted  barley flavor were the dreaded words.  Partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil.

How could this happen?  This is false advertising!  There ought to be a law!

Well, apparently there is a law with a nice little loophole for the food industry.  See, food companies can list their food item as having 0 g of trans fat as long as the amount is less than 0.5 grams.

Well, that doesn’t seem so bad.  Or does it?  There is no daily recommended amount of intake for trans fat (unlike other nutrients) because it really is that bad for you.  And while that small amount may not seem that bad, it can really add up over the course of day.  A doughnut alone has 4 g.  A large order of fries?  You don’t even want to know.

My little girl twin waved her cracker at me and smiled.  It was at that moment that I realized I could not and would not clog my children’s arteries with trans fat.  I’ll probably screw up a million times over, but I’d like to do at least one thing right and save my children from a massive coronary at a young age.

So while the nutrition label is helpful, it shouldn’t be your only source of information.  If you truly want to cut trans fat (and send a huge message to the food companies) check the ingredients.

About six months ago, I happened to flip past the Oprah show.  Dr. Mehmet Oz was discussing what we should be eating versus what we actually are eating as well as the dangers of transfat and partially hydrogenated oils.  During his discussion, he showed what partially hydrogenated oils look like (think a big heaping helping of Crisco.  No, think huge.)  Then he asked if we knew what it was doing in our arteries and demonstrated the clog by squeezing the fat through his hands.

Then they profiled one woman who slept 18 hours a day and spent her waking hours either eating,  usually fried fatty foods from a restaurant, or sitting sluggishly in front of the television.

Well, of course she’s sluggish!  I thought.  She’s eating fried junk all the time.

And then Dr. Oz and a fellow colleague visited her home and went through her cabinets.  They put all of the food in her house on two tables.  One to keep and one to toss.  Most of what she had I didn’t have, so I thought I was doing pretty well.  Go me!

And then he pulled out the peanut butter.

Peanut butter?  What’s wrong with peanut butter?  And is that my Jif?  The peanut butter that I chose because I am a “choosy mom”?

Well, the peanut butter went in the discard pile.  Not because it has a high fat content.  Peanuts are actually a very good source of protein.  It’s because of the partially hydrogenated oils that are put into the peanut butter.  This causes the creamy effect we have come to love and it increases the shelf life.

So there’s your answer.  That’s why I’m living transfat free.  It all started with a jar of peanut butter.