Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Trans Fats: Is There a Difference?

Turns out there is. Emerging research may show us that some types of trans fats aren't harmful and dare we hypothesize...even beneficial. The verdict is still out on the latter, but this might be the time to equip yourself with the knowledge to tell the difference between bad and not-so-bad.

You've probably heard about trans fats before, mostly in a negative light. The trans fats that have received the most attention over the last few years are the ones that are artificially created, or "industrial." Most of these are found in convenience or pre-packaged products. Industrial trans fats are created through the process of hydrogenation; when a liquid oil is altered at the chemical level (I'm talking atoms, here) causing the oil to maintain a solid form at room temperature. Think of shortening or stick margarine. Industrial trans fats have been shown in research to be harmful because they raise total, and especially the "bad" LDL cholesterol, increasing the risk of atheroslcerosis (hardening of the arteries) and cardiovascular disease.

Some trans fats are naturally-occurring and seem to be less harmful, if at all. This is what I'll be looking to find out more about in the future. You'll find naturally-occurring trans fats in meats and dairy products--anything that comes from an animal that harbors bacteria in their rumen (stomach/gut). Don't get grossed out--remember humans have "good" bacteria in our guts also to help digest our food. At this time, these types of trans fats appear to be safe when consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet.

Nutrition facts labels don't differentiate between the good and the bad. I recommend steering clear of products that do contain trans fats on the food label, as usually these are the less healthy type. Secondly, check the ingredients in products for hydrogenated oil. Make sure products containing hydrogenated oils are limited in your diet. Even if they don't have any labeled trans fats, they do actually contain some of these health-harming fats.

I stumbled upon this new website that seeks to help educate consumers on the difference between naturally-occurring trans fats and engineered ones: http://naturaltransfats.ca/. I'll be keeping tabs on it for future information and research and thought I'd pass it along so you could too. If you have more questions about heart health and the different types of fats, make sure to ask your dietitian!

Enter my Kellogg's give-away by July 3!

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