Tomorrow is National Wear Red day – in support of women’s heart disease awareness. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov//educational/hearttruth/materials/wear-red-toolkit.htm
As things gear up for heart health awareness, I’m stuck wondering why partially hydrogenated oils are still in so many foods. Partially hydrogenated oils make up man-made trans fats. Now that trans fats have been on food labels for a few years, many companies have worked to get their trans fats content down to 0 grams. But, 0 grams per serving really means less than 0.5 grams per serving. So, if you eat a few of those tiny packages of pretzels on an airtran flight, you are probably getting a gram or more of trans fats. Sure, that sounds like nothing but over the course of a day, by combining a bunch of foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils, you could be getting a reasonably sized dose of these unhealthy fats.
Man-made trans fats wreck havoc on your heart. They lower your HDL levels (good cholesterol), raise your LDL levels (bad choleserol) and increase your risk for coronary heart disease. Consumption of trans fats can also contribute to insulin resistance when paired with excess calorie intake (and if you are eating foods with trans fats you are likely to overconsume calories as well) and they may contribute to abdominal obesity, systemic inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. Man-made trans fats aren’t just the a one-two punch. And I know the whole mantra about “all foods fit” but seriously, man-made trans fats don’t in anyone’s diet. There is no reason for them or for food to still be made with them. With as many food choices as we are lucky to have here in the United States and other well developed countries there is absolutely no reason why one should choose something with man-made trans fats.
Now, I keep saying man-made because there are healthy naturally occuring trans fats (found in dairy products and meat for instance).
If you are lucky enough to live in a place like Montgomery County, MD, which has banned (man-made) trans in restaurants, you don’t have to worry about it when you eat out. If you don’t live somewhere that bans trans, figure out what the restaurants you frequently eat at cook with. Let’s take Chipotle for example. They don’t list what they fry their chips in. For restaurants that don’t list this or the nutrition information, I’m going to assume they fry them in shortening vs. vegetable oil and stay far, far away.
Aside from figuring this out in restaurants, take a peek at your favorite packaged foods and opt for those without man-made trans fats or consume very little of these foods. Your heart and your body will thank you!