Why Trans fats are dangerous for your health

You may have noticed the label “Trans Fat Free” printed in many of your food products in recent years, but you may not exactly understand what they are.

This article will provide you some insights what trans fats are and why it is banned in Singapore since June 2021 as well as USA, Canada and Thailand since 2018.

So what are trans fats?

Trans fats are fats that are formed when vegetable oils undergo a “hardening” process known as partial hydrogenation. Hydrogen is pumped in to solidify liquid oil which in turns makes it more stable and to increase the shelf life. This in turn, makes many food products last longer (hence, more profits!).

There are two types of trans fats found in foods: naturally-occurring and artificial trans fats. While we are not looking at eliminating the ones that can be naturally found in animal food (e.g, milk and meat products), we are looking at the ones that are created artificially and pumped into food products such as snacks and fat spreads.

So why are trans-fat harmful for us?

Trans fats have been found to raise one’s bad (LDL) cholesterol and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels, hence they are known to be worse than saturated fats. This increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke as well as a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

What kind of food are high in Trans-fat?

Since the announcement of the trans-fat ban in June 2019 in Singapore, high risk products such as fat spreads (margarines, chocolate spreads) and frozen cakes have already been reformulated to be trans- fat free. However, food manufacturers are still allowed to sell food products that contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving (refer to nutritional information panel) due to the naturally occurring trans fats in the ingredients used.

How about freshly prepared food products? Do note that trans fat will continue to be present as they exist naturally in foods such as coffee creamers, vegetable shortening, and some pie shells and refrigerated dough. Heating and frying oil at high temperatures can also lead to increase in trans fat concentration.

So how do you avoid trans fats in foods?

While there is no way that we can avoid trans fats totally in our diet, it will be best to incorporate a diet rich in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains which are naturally low or fat free as well.

Consume processed food such as fast food and deep fried food once a week to control your intake of trans fats.

Sources:

https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/2067/5-things-to-start-doing-now-that-transfat-has-been-banned

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/trans-fat

https://www.eatthis.com/trans-fat-banned-artificial-natural/

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