Know Your Fats: Part 1

February 13, 2009

We all know enough to look for that “Og Trans Fat” label, right?  Well, as you might guess, we can’t exactly count on marketing departments to give us the whole truth.  It might just be that I’m a little slow, since I just realized this, but I imagine many folks don’t know what I’m about to tell you.

You need to know first that “Og Trans Fat” doesn’t really mean that.  According to the FDA, if a food item has less than .5 grams trans fat per serving, the packaging can assert the above claim.  For many food items, this means that the company will manipulate the serving size, so they can still make the no trans fat claim.  So we need to ignore the trans fat section of the nutrition facts–don’t even look at it.  We need to check out the ingredient list.  If the product contains any partially hydrogenated oils, it has trans fat.

Avoiding trans fats is, of course, all the rage currently, but is it just another fad like the Atkin’s diet?  Trans fats were originally created for products such as butter and shortening, so they would stay solids at room temperature–sure, they had a purpose, but nobody really knew the consequences.  You could say we’re all victims of advertising and consumerism, but really, we’re victims of our own ignorance.  We like those Ho-Ho’s, so we don’t give a damn what’s in them.  And it’s an added benefit that they can sit in our cabinets for 42 years and still taste good when we happen across them during our twice a century spring cleaning.

Now that studies have been conducted on trans fats, we know the truth: there are absolutely no health benefits to trans fats.  You might think the same about saturated fats, but that’s not true.  We need fat in our diets.  We need to know, though, what kinds of fats and in what quantities to consume them.  Saturated fats raise our bad cholesterol, which is obviously not good, but you’ll notice that foods we’re “supposed” to eat contain saturated fats.  That’s because saturated fats are usually present with “good” fats.

I’ll get more into the “good” fats in Part 2, but for now, back to trans fats.  Re-read above what saturated fats do (hint: raise bad cholesterol), and now hear this: trans fats both raise your bad cholesterol and  lower your good cholesterol.  Again, no health benefits.  But trans fats are seemingly omnipresent.  They extend the shelf life of food, and for fried foods, the oil is significantly cheaper and can be used for a longer period of time before it needs to be replaced, so of course your favorite fast food chain is going to deep fry those frozen sticks of potato in it.  This is some bad stuff–I can’t help but think that we haven’t even seen the worst days when it comes to heart disease, because restaurants and food manufacturers are using these oils almost indescriminately.  True fact: Chick-fil-A uses 100% peanut oil, a source of good fat, to cook up it’s fries and chicken.

That’s my rant on trans fats.  Please call me out if I have misstated anything (please be gentle, though.  I’m fragile).  For the next post I’ll look at the healthy fats.  For now, let’s cause a stink about this.  If we make enough noise, maybe we can nudge KC toward encouraging restaurants to discontinue use of trans fats like NYC did.  See this brochure published by NYC Health.


2 Responses to “Know Your Fats: Part 1”

  1. bmccoy said

    so wait… peanut oil- good or bad?

  2. mr.eggsandsoup said

    sorry, my wording is confusing. peanut oil is good.

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