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Trans Fats: 5 Things You Should Know

Trans Fats - five things you must know

Trans fats have been in the news lately because health authorities have identified them as being more harmful to our health than saturated fat and are recommending that we all try to reduce our intake of trans fats as much as possible.

In this article we tell you the top 5 things you should know about trans fats including what they are, why they are harmful to our health, how to identify them in the foods you are eating and most importantly how to reduce them in your diet.

1. What are Trans Fats?

Trans fats (trans fatty acids) are a type of unsaturated fat that has no functional benefit to our health and is not necessary at all in our diet.

Trans fats can be found in small quantities in natural sources such as meat and milk from cows and sheep but trans fats are also created when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oils (a process called hydrogenation).

Hydrogenation is a process used to turn vegetable oils into semi-solids (like margarine) and increase the shelf life, decrease the need for refrigeration and enhance the flavor of foods containing them.

One other reason hydrogenated vegetable oils are preferred to animal fats (such as butter or lard) and semi-solid plant fats (such as palm oil) by manufacturers is that they are much less expensive than these alternatives.

2. How do Trans Fats affect our health?

Scientific evidence shows that consumption of trans fats increases our bad cholesterol (LDL) and decreases our good cholesterol (HDL) which dramatically increases our risk of experiencing cardiovascular disease including heart disease.

Because of their affect on lowering good cholesterol as well as increasing bad cholesterol, trans fats are now recognised as being more harmful to our heart health than saturated fat.

Chronic Cardiovascular Disease if left untreated can lead to serious and even life threatening health conditions such as angina, heart attacks and strokes.

3. How much trans fats should we be eating?

At the moment there aren't any single recommended intakes for saturated and trans fats in Australia.

However, highly respected health groups like the National Heart Foundation recommend that the intake of saturated fat plus trans fat should be no more than 8% of our total energy intake.

This recommendation is inline with other well respected groups around the world such as the American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee which strongly advises that healthy people over the age of two limit their intake of harmful fats like saturated fat and trans fats to between 7 and 10 percent of total calories.

According to the National Nutrition Survey published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 1998, saturated and trans fats account for more than 12.5% of total energy intake in the average Australian diet, so many of us are grossly exceeding the recommended levels.

4. What foods are trans fats found in?

At the moment it is not easy to identify which foods have high levels of trans fats in them because Australian manufacturers aren't required by law to include details of trans fats on food labels unless they make a nutrition claim about cholesterol, saturated, unsaturated, omega-3, omega-6, omega-9 or trans fatty acids as part of their marketing communication.

With trans fats and their health risks being discussed as heavily as they currently are, this is sure to change in the future and some companies are starting to include the level of trans fats on their food labels voluntarily so it is becoming easier.

Generally speaking, foods typically high in trans fats include things like:

  • Biscuits.
  • Cakes.
  • Pies.
  • Potato Chips.
  • Cuts of meat containing visible fat.
  • Full fat dairy products.
  • Fried take away foods like doughnuts, French fries, etc.
  • Some brands of margarine.

5. How do we reduce our intake of trans fats?

As of January 2006 the American FDA passed a regulation requiring trans fat to be listed on all food nutrition labels and it shouldn't be long before the same law is passed here in Australia.

While our current labeling laws don't make it easy for us to identify the levels of trans fats in the foods we buy in our supermarkets, there are things we can do to try to limit the amount of trans fats we consume each day.

Here are the things that organizations like the National Heart Foundation and others suggest we do to lower the amounts of trans fats in our diet:

  • Avoid deep-fried fast foods and takeaways.
  • Limit the amount of manufactured biscuits, cakes and pies we eat.
  • Limit the amount of margarine we eat and choose those lowest in trans fatty acids.
  • Cut the visible fat of our meat and remove the skin off chicken.
  • Choose low fat dairy products, limit cream and butter.
  • Look for the words hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated in the list of ingredients of packaged foods to see if trans fat is included.
  • Use naturally occurring, unhydrogenated oil such as canola or olive oil when possible.
  • Look for processed foods made with unhydrogenated oil rather than hydrogenated or saturated fat.
  • Look for those labeled "trans-fat free."
  • Limit the saturated fat in your diet - if you don't eat a lot of saturated fat, you won't be consuming a lot of trans fatty acids.

Conclusion

Trans fats have been in the news lately because health authorities have identified them as being more harmful to our health than saturated fat and are recommending that we all try to reduce our intake of them as much as possible.

In this article we explained the top 5 things everyone should know about trans fats including what they are, why they are harmful to our health, how to identify them in the foods we eat and most importantly how to reduce them in our diet.

Good luck reducing trans fats in your diet and thanks you for visiting weightloss.com.au.

Copyright Ultimate Weightloss.

This article was written by Scott Haywood.

Scott is the editor of weightloss.com.au. Scott has developed an expertise in fitness and nutrition, and their roles in weight loss, which led him to launch weightloss.com.au in 2005. Today, weightloss.com.au provides weight loss and fitness information, including hundreds of healthy recipes, weight loss tools and tips, articles, and more, to millions of people around the world, helping them to lead happier, healthier, lives.

You can follow Scott on Google+ for more interesting articles.

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