No, TF doesn’t mean “Total Fabulousness,” “Team Fitness” or “ToFu” (although I don’t recommend tofu due to it’s mostly processed nature)! TF=Trans Fat, and continuing to ingest TF will likely make you sick, fat and unhealthy.
Before you roll your eyes and wave me off, let’s dig in and understand the “why.”
Doctors consider trans fat the worst kind of fat, and a cause of killer heart disease.
Trans fat raises your LDL ("bad") cholesterol and lowers your HDL ("good") cholesterol. It flat out increases your risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, and causes inflammation.
Yes, there are some naturally occurring trans fat like the ones in the animal products such as milk and meat, but I’m really talking about the artificial kind.
Most trans fat is formed through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, causing the oil to become solid at room temperature. Why bother? Well if you’re a manufacturer, you have just extended your products’ shelf life and the food less likely to spoil. If you’re a restaurant, there is less need to change the oil in the fryer, saving both time and money. Take a moment and think about how icky that is.
Health-wise, there is nothing good about TF. If you see “partially hydrogenated oil” (another word for trans fat) on an ingredient list, RUN. On second thought, run regardless for your heart and respiratory health, but I digress.
The tricky part is U.S. food labeling is all screwed up – if a food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat in a serving, manufacturers can list ZERO grams of trans fat on the label. So it’s super important to check the ingredient list for “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil”.
Even more confusing, foods labeled with “0 trans fat” aren’t necessarily good for you as the manufacturer very well may have swapped out the trans fat for an even worse ingredient (or one that is creating environmental issues like palm oil).
Typical foods with trans fats include:
- Baked goods
- Creamer and margarine (don’t ever eat margarine!)
- Refrigerator dough like canned biscuits, crusts, etc.
- Fried foods
- Packaged snacks like microwave popcorn and chips
OK, now the good news: TF is slowly being phased out. In November 2013, the FDA determined that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer “Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)” in human food, and called for a ban. There is currently a pending regulation to remove nearly all trans fats from our diets in 2018, and some U.S. cities, such as NY currently have implemented policies to reduce trans fats in restaurants.
And a recent study shows the ban works (see resource articles below)! Communities with the bans had significantly fewer hospitalizations for heart attacks and strokes.
In other good news, over the last few years the “zero fat” guidelines have been debunked and health practitioners are no longer vilifying all fats. You can eat delicious mono saturated fats like those found in olive oil, nuts, fish. You can even eat some saturated fat (like butter and full fat yogurt), which will make you feel fuller, thus you’ll be satiated and eat less. Just don’t overdo it (try to keep it to 10% of your diet).
So, my Totally Fabulous peeps, check labels for pesky and harmful TF, and just say no. Demand your favorite food sources use healthier solutions, or switch to other brands. Of course, whole foods are always a great solution, and as we embark on the warmer months the markets will be bountiful.
Your heart, cholesterol levels and waistlines will thank you!
Marjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™