Four easy ways to avoid the harm that trans fats can do
The World Health Organisation’s goal for 2023 is to eliminate industrially produced trans-fatty acids – because of the health risks they certainly pose – that triggered the bans and the resulting consternation. Eliminating trans fats is key to protecting health and saving lives: WHO estimates that each year trans-fat intake causes more than 500,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease. Now, consumers may wonder how they should know what foods contain trans fats, how best to avoid them, and what are the alternatives.
What are trans fats and why ban them?
Artificial trans fats are unsaturated fats that have been industrially produced – by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils – since 1902. They remain widely used commercially because they greatly reduce the manufacturing cost and make foods less susceptible to spoilage. However, studies have consistently found a correlation between diets high in trans fats and heart disease – the world’s leading cause of death.
Trans fats also lower the beneficial HDL cholesterol levels and boost harmful LDL cholesterol levels, which increase the risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Moreover, trans fats are associated with a higher risk of developing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as high blood pressure and type-2 diabetes.
Now, here’s the wisdom on avoiding trans fats.
- Familiarise yourself with common foods that contain trans fats
Despite the proven negative effects of foods containing trans fats, there remain quite a few in the markets that are full of them, but fortunately they’re easy to spot. They most commonly take the form of margarine, baked goods, fried foods, packaged snacks, cake mixes and frostings.
Likely trans fats alerts:
- Doughnuts, pies, cookies, biscuits and cakes
- French fries and many other fried foods, since they’re cooked in oils containing trans fats
- Frozen meals
- Non-dairy creamers
- Pay attention to the labels
All food manufacturers are required to list the trans-fat content on their products’ nutrition labels, so give these a read before you purchase. Ideally, pick the products that have ZERO grams of trans fats. Keep an eye out too for the term “partially hydrogenated oils”, which is another indicator that trans fats are probably present.
- Switch to trans-fat-free cooking oils
When it comes to inherent health benefits, not all cooking oils are created equal. It’s important to choose the right one. Naturally, Deoleo – maker of Bertolli, Carbonell, Carapelli and many other popular brands of olive oil – is here to say our oils are the best choice for both healthiness and great taste.
Olive oil is not only free of trans fats. It’s full of heart-healthy fatty acids such as monounsaturated fats (MUFAs). According to the American Heart Association, MUFAs found in olive oil help lower LDL cholesterol levels in your blood, greatly reducing the risk of heart diseases and stroke. Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, which have been scientifically proven to help lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure and the chance of developing coronary diseases.
- Snacks can be healthy!
Between-meal snacks are fine as components of a balanced diet, helping keep you energised through the day – as long as they’re consumed in moderation. Rather than packaged snacks sold in shops that are full of trans fats, though, you need to switch to trans-fat-free munchies such as unsalted almonds, sliced apples, carrot sticks and Greek yoghurt. These are all much healthier, and yet equally enjoyable.