By Bernard Moore Certified Fitness Specialist
Let’s look at the dangers of trans fats. First of all, trans fats make the coronary arteries more rigid and contribute to the formation of blood clots, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Trans fats also reduce HDL “good” cholesterol levels while increasing LDL “bad” cholesterol. According to a study by Walter Willet, MD, chairman of the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, approximately 30,000 premature heart disease deaths each year can be attributed to the consumption of trans fats. According to Harvard’s landmark Nurses’ Health Study, the consumption of just two grams to three grams of trans fats daily, the amount typically found in three to six cookies, increases the risk for coronary disease by 21 percent. Other studies have linked trans fats consumption to diabetes and obesity.
About 40 percent of supermarket foods contain trans fats. This harmful substance is found in 95 percent of cookies ( oh yes, this includes the Girl Scout cookies), 80 percent of frozen breakfast foods, 75 percent of snacks and chips, 70 percent of all cake mixes and almost half of all cereals. Products with the most trans fats include vegetable shortening, donuts, stick margarine, french fries (trans fats account for about 40 percent of total fat), and many cookies and crackers with 35-50 percent of fat coming from trans fat. Fast food restaurants are among the worst offenders. A typical Danish roll from a donut shop contains about 2.7 grams of trans fats. Two vegetable spring rolls from a Chinese restaurant contain 1.7 grams. Five chicken nuggets and a large order of fries from a fast food restaurant contain nearly 4 grams and 7 grams respectively. A piece of baked apple pie can contain 4.5 grams. There is no safe level of trans fats. To eliminate them from your diet you MUST CAREFULLY read labels and nutritional charts offered by some fast food restaurants.
The FDA labeling laws allow a manufacturer to say zero trans fats if a product contains 0.5 or less per serving. Since serving sizes often are unrealistically small, it would be easy to consume several servings a day of under 0.5 grams products resulting in significant intake of trans fats over the course of a week. For example, Benecol, a soft spread substitute for butter, is advertised as promoting heart health by lowering cholesterol. It does this, but it also contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fats per tablespoon. This means that if you used one tablespoon four times a day, which is the amount recommended to lower cholesterol, you could consume nearly 14 grams of trans fats a week from Benecol spread alone. Any product that has “partially hydrogenated oil” as an ingredient contains trans fats, regardless of what the label says. So what are some safe foods you can eat free from trans fats, all fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt. Canned fish is also free of trans fats. The easiest way to avoid trans fats altogether is to ask yourself, “is this food that I am about to put in my mouth created by God,” if so, then you have nothing to worry about. May God bless you with vibrant health.