Your body needs fat as every single cell needs it as building blocks for their walls, we need it as an energy source and as energy storage, to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and for proper functions of our nervous and hormone systems. So yes, fat is a crucial element in our diet – but we need to be selective here and only choose the good fats and essential fatty acids.
One fat to avoid by all means is trans fat. Trans fats are fats that are naturally liquid but are forced to become solid for more stability and increased shelf life through a process called hydrogenation. When your body takes up the trans fat, it thinks it is a normal fat cell and starts to metabolise it as it would normally.
The problem is that once it is part of the cell it looks like a fat molecule, but doesn’t react like one. This means that the communication between cells cannot work properly and diseases start to appear. On top of that, they can contribute to clogged arteries and therefore all related risks that come with that, like heart attack and stroke. There have even been connections found to diabetes (WebMD and Mayo Clinic).
Which foods contain trans fats?
Unfortunately, practically anything you find in regular supermarkets: baked goods (as they use margarine), cookies, fast food, bars, salty snacks and more.
Read the labels and look out for hydrogenated vegetable oils or vegetable shortening as they most likely contain trans fats. Even if it says “trans fat free” on the front – check the label. It only means that it is within the acceptable limits and not necessarily free of trans fats.
What are the better options?
If you go for baked goods, choose the ones that are made with butter instead of margarine. The same applies to cookies and snacks. Even though product labels say vegetable oils on the ingredients list, I am sceptical as they just might have forgotten the word “hydrogenated”.
Choose natural snacks like dried fruits, nuts or seaweed if you like it savoury. A good chocolate with cacao butter is a great option too as cacao butter has a high melting point and it solidifies naturally, and thus is not hydrogenated.
So should you stay away from trans fats?
Yes, you should. It is actually not that hard and there are so many alternative options to choose from – we just have to look for them. And above all, we should choose our health so say ‘no!’ to trans fats.