There are two different types of trans fats to watch out for. One is artificial, and the other occurs naturally.
Animals produce the trans fats that occur naturally in their gut and, as a result, the food we eat from these same animals have small amounts of trans fat in them.
For example, milk or meat products have been shown to have small numbers of trans fats for the above reasons.
On the other hand, artificial trans fats are man-made through an industrial process that will add vegetable oils and hydrogen together to combine into a solid.
You can spot trans fat on food labels by looking for hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated oils.
Back in2015, the FDA stated that hydrogenated oils are not safe for human consumption, and removing them from food can drastically reduce the death rate each year from unhealthy eating. (1)
Why Are Companies Using Trans Fats In Food?
Food manufacturing companies realized a long time ago that trans fats are very cheap for them to produce and, due to their nature, can last a lot longer than normal food.
Not to mention, trans fats make food taste good, which is why you’ll find them in a lot of the foods mentioned later in this article.
Trans fat is also used in the restaurant industry and fast-food chains to fry food because the oil can be used repeatedly without the need to be changed often.
More of the world is starting to pick up on the negative health effects of trans fats. Countries such as Switzerland, Canada, and Denmark have removed or drastically reduced trans fat in their restaurants.
Even here in the US like California, New York, and more have also followed suit.
How Trans Fats Are Made
What Exactly Are Trans Fats?
As we now know, trans fat was derived from the food manufacturing industry, where they turn liquid oil into solids.
They do this through hydrogenation, a process where certain oils are converted into solids by adding hydrogen atoms to the food structure.
Doing this improves the taste of food and the shelf life of products that use trans fat.
You’d be surprised in all the places trans fat can be hiding.
Here are a few:
- Baked goods
- Granola bars
- Fried food
- & Other processed food snacks
How To Avoid Trans Fat
What Foods Have Trans Fat?
Reading the nutrition label will give you a better idea for specifics, but there are common foods known to have trans fat in them.
Here’s a further breakdown:
- Chicken nuggets, hash browns, french fries
- Frozen foods such as pizza pockets, egg rolls, burritos, veggie/beef patties
- Donuts, pies, cakes
- Puff pastries, taco shells, cake mixtures, pie crusts, icing
- Waffles, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, and other toaster pastries
- Puddings & packaged sweet snacks
- Microwave popcorn
As explained earlier, small amounts of trans fat can also be found naturally in our foods, like in meat, milk, and dairy products.
However, it’s important to note that the trans fat found naturally is very different from the man-made trans fat and has not been associated with heart disease risks.
Worst Foods For Trans Fats
The lists above are a good starting point to know which food could include manufactured forms of trans fat or hydrogenated oils.
Here’s a list where the trans fat content is typically the highest:
- Baked goods
- Microwavable popcorn
- Frozen pizzas
- Biscuits and rolls
- French fries
- Fried chicken
- Non-dairy creamers
Low Trans Fat Foods
While it may seem like trans fat is in almost everything, that’s simply not the case.
Here’s a list of foods you can eat with very low levels of trans fat:
- Meat. Lean beef, lean pork, lean lamb, chicken, and turkey without the skin.
- Beans & lentils
- Vegetable meat substitutes
- Fish. Salmon, trout, herring, sardines, and tuna.
- Eggs in small amounts.
- Dairy. Fat-free versions of milk, yogurt, cheese, and sour cream.
- Grains. All bread, pitas, wraps, English muffins made without hydrogenated oil.
- Fats & Oils. Vegetable, avocado, canola, safflower, soybean, and sesame oils.
- Nuts and Seeds
Why Is Trans Fat Bad?
There are links to trans fat increasing the bad cholesterol levels (HDL) and lowering good cholesterol levels (LDL) in patients.
Our bad cholesterol, or Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), can build up on the walls of our arteries.
The good cholesterol, or High-density lipoprotein (HDL), picks up any extra cholesterol to transport it back to our liver.
If the deposits of fat in our arteries were to rupture, then blood clots can form, causing blockages.
These blockages eventually block the flow of blood back to your heart, causing heart attacks or strokes.
This is why trans fat has also been shown to increase the risks of heart disease, stroke, and even diabetes.
In 1990, the study on trans fats was beginning to be looked at and how they affect health level markers in adults.
Based on the findings of these studies, the FDA made regulations around having to disclose trans fats and hydrogenated oils on nutrition labels.
Trans fat consumption has decreased over the years as people become more aware of their effects and as food manufacturers use less of it in our food.
You may be unknowingly consuming higher levels of trans fat based on your past food choices, so be aware of how they can be hidden in food labels.
How Much Trans Fat Per Day?
How You Can Limit Your Daily Intake
It’s important to know what’s in the food you’re eating. The only way to understand is by reading the nutrition label on the foods you’re buying.
Don’t be afraid to ask what kinds of oil your foods are cooked in, either. If it’s not one of the recommended oils mentioned above, have something else to eat there.
Recommendations For Trans Fat
It’s been recommended by the American Heart Association that to help lower LDL cholesterol, the intake of trans fat in your diet should be reduced as much as possible.
As a rule of thumb, aim for no more than 3-5% of your total daily calories. Less is more here.
Here’s how you can hit those goals:
- Eat a ketogenic diet that’s high in unsaturated fat and keep your intake to around 70-75% of your daily calories to get into and stay in ketosis as long as possible.
- Use non-hydrogenated oils such as canola, sunflower, and olive oil.
- Look at the label for trans fat or hydrogenated oil.
- Avoid high-carb, sugary foods as these are where a lot of the trans fat is hidden, like donuts, cookies, pies, and cakes.
- Limit food that’s fried.