Why Are Trans Fats Bad For Health?
We all love our deep-fried junk food. Fried foods are rich in trans fats and we all probably know that. When foods are fried, they absorb the fat of the oils and hence are high in calories. Eating too many fried foods have been correlated with high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels and a variety of other heart disease risk factors. So, what is trans fat? How are trans fats bad for health? Which foods are rich in trans fats? Read on to get all your answers!
So, fats are bad and we should absolutely restrict our fat consumption, right? No, not really. Not all fried foods are equally bad.
Our body requires fats as much as it requires proteins or carbohydrates. However, not all fats are the same. Some are essential and healthy fats while some aren’t. Trans fats are an ideal example of the latter.
Fast food establishments heavily use trans fats for their food preparation.
What are Trans fats?
Trans fats are unsaturated fats that can be naturally present in animal-derived foods. They can also be produced from vegetable fats.
Partial hydrogenation of unsaturated fats produces trans fats. Hydrogenation is an artificial process which chemically adds more hydrogen molecules to unsaturated fats to make them more saturated. It produces fats having desired properties such as high melting points. There are two types of trans fat present in foods. They are artificially occurring trans fats and naturally occurring trans fats.
- The guts of some animals produce naturally occurring trans fats. The food products derived from these animals may also contain small amounts of these fats. Meat products and milk are common examples.
- Artificial trans fats are produced industrially by the process called hydrogenation. Fast food establishments heavily use trans fats for their food preparation.
How Are Trans Fats Bad For Health?
With the increased consumption of processed foods nowadays, the consumption of trans fat has also increased. For example, vanaspati or dalda is a commonly used Indian domestic and commercial cooking oil which is high in trans fats. Hence, it is harmful to our health. Thus, most fried foods that you eat at road-side restaurants are rich in trans fat.
Trans fat consumption has serious health effects on our body such as:
- Trans fat affects the metabolism of essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids). Essential fatty acids are essential for sustaining many important biochemical and anabolic pathways in the body.
Learn more about essential fatty acids, here!
- Excess trans fat consumption during pregnancy can affect the foetus by inhibiting the synthesis of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are essential for maintaining various metabolic processes in the body.
- Trans fat increases the level of LDL (low-density lipoproteins) or “bad” cholesterol levels and decreases the level of HDL (high-density lipoproteins) or “good” cholesterol levels. Also, a higher level of LDL increases the risk of atherosclerosis or coronary heart disease.
To learn more about cholesterol and heart health, click here!
- Trans fats may increase weight gain and abdominal fat deposits even if you maintain average caloric intake.
- Trans fats increase the risk of colon cancer, breast cancer, and type-II diabetes in certain individuals.
How Much Should I Eat?
According to the National Institute of Nutrition, the recommended daily intake of trans fat should not be over 1% of the total calorie intake. For example, if you consume 2000 calories each day, your daily trans fat intake should be about 20 calories or about 2 grams.
So, how can I reduce trans fat intake in my diet?
It is important to read labels on foods and food products and inquire about the kind of oil used for cooking when eating out. Furthermore, you can enjoy eating fried foods by choosing the right kind of oils to fry them in.
Replace vanaspati or dalda with non-hydrogenated vegetable oils such as canola, safflower, sunflower or olive oil, while cooking. Also, try to limit your consumption of red meats and beverages.
Some common Indian foods where trans-fat can be present include biscuits, cakes, Indian sweets such as gulab-jamun, halwa, jalebi etc., bread, fried foods such as kachori, samosa etc., and biryani. Avoid all these foods or at least eat them in moderation to keep your trans fat intake in check!