Trans fats - just say "NO"!

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We often see the ingredient, "partially hydrogenated fat" on foods such as margarine and in previous years, advertisers told us that partially hydrogenated fats were better than the saturated animal fats like butter.

A new book, NOURISHING TRADITIONS by Sally Fallon sheds some light on the subject.  As she explains it, hydrogenation is the method they use to make oils which are usually liquid at room temperature into spreads like margarine which are not liquid at room temperature.

Here's how they make margarine:

First they take vegetable oil, soy, corn or cottonseed, of a cheap quality.  The oil may be already rancid from the extraction process.  Then they mix it with tiny medal particles, usually nickel oxide, a toxic substance, and then they subject the mixture to hydrogen in a high pressure high temperature reactor.  Next,  in order to remove the unappetizing odor of the mixture and give it a better consistency, soap like emulsifiers and starch are squeezed in,  and the oil is, yet again, subjected to high temperatures like steam cleaning.  The resulting mixture is an unattractive grey in color.  In order to make the hydrogenated solid oil mixture look like butter, the original gray is removed by bleach and coal tar dyes are added.  Finally, strong flavors are mixed in to make it taste like butter.  And this mixture is compressed into tubs or blocks which the consumer buys as margarine.


If the process didn't turn you off towards margarine, perhaps this will give you pause.  Hydrogenated fats, now called "Trans fatty acids" get into our cells but our cells can't really handle them well.  For one thing, trans fats slow the uptake of insulin making us more prone towards immediate weight gain and more in danger of type two diabetes in the long run.  Also, the trans fats alter the cell membranes and make the cells more susceptible to cancer growths.  Most studies show that people who consume a lot of trans fat (like the average American), are 40 percent more likely to get cancer than those who are on a low fat nutritional program.

Finally, trans fats are very likely to lower the HDL cholesterol and raise the LDL cholesterol.  The latter is what clogs the arteries and veins and can make people at high risk for heart attack.  Think of the fact that when you eat a food containing a lot of 'trans fat', the fats might end up gumming up your arteries rather quickly!

Guess what kind of fats you find in fast foods?

Here's some more foods which have 'trans fats' in them:

  • lard
  • margarine
  • doughnuts
  • many pastries
  • deep fried foods
  • 'buttered' popcorn like you get at the movies
  • potato chips

The latest studies show that we need some fats like Omega 3 fats - these can be found in fish and dark green leafy veggies.

Interestingly enough, my mother, born in 1918, used to avoid margarine and lard.  "Never," she told us, "eat fats which are solid at room temperature - they are bad for you."  That was about 40 years before the scientific studies bore her warnings out to be true.

Source: Oxygen Magazine, Jan/Feb 2000