The bad fat I am referring to is ‘trans fat’. A shudder-causing ingredient for health experts, trans fat is formed when natural vegetable oil is hardened through hydrogenation to prolong the taste and/or shelf life of certain foods.
Studies show that continued consumption of trans fat—even as little as one gram of it—can increase ‘bad’ cholesterol, put you at a greater risk for heart disease, and be a possible trigger of type 2 diabetes, particularly in women.
It’s rather easy to miss the presence of trans fat in some foods. Here’s a useful guide to help you stay away:
Microwaved popcorn: Popcorn is one of those snacks that gets away lightly—not many suspect it of being fattening. The truth is, microwaved popcorn contains trans fat. Caution: even if a product declares ‘Trans Fat: 0 grams”, it can contain trans fat if one of the ingredients listed is ‘shortening’ or ‘hydrogenated oil.’
Potato chips: they are one of the worst culprits, with one small bag carrying 3 or more grams of trans fat. Munch on almonds or trail mix instead.
Crackers: they look innocuous enough, but ‘saltine’ crackers and ‘animal’ crackers often contain trans fat. Read the labels!
Certain cereals: specially the pebble and pop varieties, though attractive to children, often have harmful trans fat in them. The same goes for many ‘protein bars’ that are marketed as ‘healthy’. Best to stick to good old oatmeal and granola.
Frozen food: those pies, pizzas and waffles are no doubt convenient to serve up, but they often contain high amounts of trans fat. As far as possible, avoid them.
French fries: they are perhaps the most obvious one on this list, but need special mention because just a medium order of fries can load you with an alarming 8 grams of trans fat. (Your daily intake of this fat should be as close to 0 grams as possible!)
Cookies: kids and adults, we all love them, and most of us eat at least 2 to 3 of them at one go. Not a good idea, because just 3 cookies can pack in nearly 3 dangerous grams of trans fat. Similarly, cake mixes, criossants and pies tend to be loaded with trans fats. Aboid the store=bought stuff, and make your own, healthier versions of your favorite bakes.
Vegetable shortening: while shortening prolongs shelf life, it also blocks your arteries. Unless you’re sure a variety of it is trans fat free, stay away.
Margarine Sticks: to stay firm and solid, margarine needs to be hydrogenated. The result: trans fat. Enough said.
Long story short, people who care about their health should ideally be aiming to consume as close to 0 grams of trans fat per day as they possibly can.