Today we’ll be turning our attention to the scientifically engineered black sheep of the fat family: trans fats.

In the commercial food industry, unsaturated plant fats are hydrogenated to enhance the texture and extend the shelf life of certain processed foods, like baked goods.  One of the products of hydrogenation is trans fats.

Research indicates that a diet high in trans fats can raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol, which increases the risk of clogged arteries.

I rarely advise people to ban specific foods from their diet.  Even the nutritionally devoid stuff has a place in a well-balanced eating life.  However in my opinion the types of foods that contain trans fats don’t have any place in a nourishing diet!

An easy way to spot a trans fat-containing food is to check the ingredient list.  If you see “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils, you’ve got some presence of trans fats.  Be wary of products that say “trans fat free” on the front of the package, the FDA allows this statement if the food contains less than 0.5 gram per serving.  They are also allowed a 20% margin of error, and their serving sizes are small.

There are some naturally occurring trans fats in dairy products.  We learned in our earlier fats discussion that we only want to consume a small amount of saturated animal fats anyways, so within a balanced diet natural trans fats aren’t really an issue.

This points to a larger lesson that a diet based on whole, minimally processed foods is best.  If you’re buying a packaged food look for one with a short ingredient list that has words that you can easily pronounce!

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