The One Fat You Should Avoid at All Costs

If you’ve ever bothered to read a food label on your average package of grocery aisle cookies, you’ll notice a sneaky little column called Trans Fats. And you should care when you see these notorious heart-cloggers.

We won’t bore you with the medical details, but it should make you rethink that fast food binge when we tell you the U.S. banned artificial trans fats in 2013 in order to prevent 7,000 deaths from heart disease and up to 20,000 heart attacks EACH YEAR. How are these fats still legal in Canada?!?!

But while our Great Nation hums and haws about saving us from these heart-ruining bastards, we thought we’d give you a heads up on what you’re really putting into your body.

First off, it’s important to stress that not all trans fats are bad, okay. Up to 20% of trans fats in the average diet are naturally occurring mostly from animal fats and dairy products. But that’s not what we’re chewing on here. Unlike other fats in food, artificial trans fat ― also called trans-fatty acids ― both raises your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lowers your HDL (“good”) cholesterol. These man-made fats end up in a lot of processed foods like biscuits, cereal, cake, pastries, chips and other preserved snacks. They work well for profit-conscious manufacturers by increasing the shelf life of food and holding fried foods together, but they’re a nightmare on your system.

Doctors in the U.K. have concluded there’s actually no “safe” level of artificial trans fats in your diet. Eat them and your risk of heart disease spikes 2.5 to 10 times higher than if you stick solely to natural trans fats. You’ll also be looking at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, inflammation in the body and several chronic diseases. Still feel like that take-out window cheeseburger?

A lot of food giants like Kraft and Nabisco started nixing trans fats in their food long before ‘Merica implemented their 2013 ban, but that doesn’t mean every manufacturer is voluntarily following suit. To Canada’s credit, we were the first country to require trans fat levels be included on our stalwart Nutrition Facts Table. So at least we know when we’re making a crappy decision (a lot of countries don’t).

So now that you know about this nasty foodstuff, you’ve got an obligation to your body – trans fat be gone! (If you have a cheat day and pound an extra-large fries, we’ll forgive you. Just be smart about it.)

Tips for avoiding trans fats:

  • Avoid fast food, high- and full-fat margarine and some baked goods like donuts, pastries and biscuits.
  • Pick grilled, lean meats without the skin over fried food. Try a side salad instead of fries.
  • Use fat-free or low-fat dairy products (room-temp creamers can sometimes contain hidden trans fats, so best to avoid if you can.)

 

References:

Trans Fats: The Health Burden.

Why trans fats should be banned, The Guardian.

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