Trans fats, which include margarine and shortening, are found in everything from crackers, cookies, doughnuts, frozen pie crusts, deep-fried foods and chocolate-coated foods.
Trans fats raise total cholesterol levels and in particular cause LDL ("bad") cholesterol to rise. This can lead to clogging of the arteries.
The easiest way for consumers to know if a product contains trans fats is to read the list of ingredients. If it says it contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or shortening, trans fat is lurking in the product.
Trans fat was invented to help pastries like cookies, cakes and doughnuts enjoy a longer shelf life. It also has a yummy taste which accounts for its popularity.
Did you know?
- New York and Philadelphia in the U.S. have set a world trend by banning trans fats.
- In Singapore, NTUC FairPrice has responded to the increased concern about trans fats. They have started labeling their trans-fat-free products.
Fats were not created equals
Monounsaturated fats: These “good” fats are found mainly in plant sources, like nuts, avocados and olive, peanut and canola oils. They are liquid at room temperature.
Polyunsaturated fats: These fats, which include the healthy omega-3 fatty acids, are also found in plant oils such as sunflower, corn, flaxseed, canola oils as well as seafood. Polyunsaturated fats are either liquid or soft at room temperature.
Essential fatty acids – alpha-linolenic and linoleic acid – are also in the polyunsaturated group. These fats, which we need to get from the foods we eat, are necessary for the creation of cell walls and hormones in the body.
Saturated fats: These fats, found mostly in animal products, are solid at room temperature. Red meat, poultry, cheese, butter and other dairy products are the main sources. Some plant products like palm, coconut and palm kernel oil are also high in saturated fat.
Trans fats: These are formed when unsaturated vegetable oils are hydrogenated (or partially hydrogenated) to form solid, more stable fats.