I’m going to talk about something today that most of you have probably never heard…that there is a distinction between good trans fats and bad trans fats. There is some evidence that the good trans can help you with fat loss, muscle building, and even cancer prevention, while the bad trans fats have been shown to cause heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and the general blubbering of your body.
I’m sure most of you have heard all of the ruckus in the news over the last few years about just how bad man-made trans fats are for your health. If you’ve been a reader of my newsletter and my “Truth about Six Pack Abs” e-book program, then you definitely know my opinion that these substances are some of the most evil food additives of all and are found in the vast majority of all processed foods and fast foods on the market today. In my opinion, man-made trans fats are right up there with smoking in terms of their degree of danger to your health. After all, they are one of THE MAIN factors for the explosion of heart disease since approximately the 1950’s.
As you may have heard recently, the FDA has mandated that food manufacturers include the grams of trans fat on all nutrition labels starting back at the beginning of this year. This means that as inventory is replaced in the grocery stores, you should start to see grams of trans listed on all packages from now on, providing you with an easier way to avoid them.
With all of the talk about trans fats in the news these days, I wanted to clarify some things, particularly regarding bad trans fats vs. good trans fats. If you’ve never heard of good trans fats before, let me explain in a bit.
The Bad Trans Fats
First, the bad trans fats I’m referring to are the man-made kind. These are represented by any artificially hydrogenated oils. The main culprits are margarine, shortening, and partially hydrogenated oils that are in most processed foods, junk foods, and deep fried foods. These hydrogenated oils are highly processed using harsh chemical solvents like hexane (a component of gasoline), high heat, pressure, have a metal catalyst added, and are then deodorized and bleached. A small % of the solvent is allowed to remain in the finished oil. This has now become more of an industrial oil rather than a food oil, but somehow the FDA still allows the food manufacturers to put this crap in our food at huge quantities, even with the well documented health dangers.
These hydrogenated oils cause inflammation inside of your body, which signals the deposition of cholesterol as a healing agent on artery walls. Hence, hydrogenated oil = inflammation = clogged arteries. You can see why heart disease has exploded since this crap has been loaded into our food supply over the last 5 to 6 decades. As time goes on, and science continues to unveil how deadly these oils really are, I feel that eventually they will be illegal and banned from use. The labeling laws were just the first step. In fact, certain countries around the world have already banned the use of hydrogenated oils in food manufacturing or at least set dates to phase them out for good.
However, keep in mind that as companies are starting to phase out the use of hydrogenated oils in processed foods, they are replacing them, in most instances, with highly refined polyunsaturated oils. These are still heavily processed oils using high heat, solvents, deodorizers, and bleaching agents. Even refined oils are known to produce inflammation in your body…a far cry from natural sources of healthy fats. Once again, for the best results, your best bet is avoiding highly processed foods altogether and choose whole, natural, minimally processed foods. Your body will thank you!
The Good Trans Fats
Ok, after having trash talked the man-made trans fats, let me clearly state that there IS such a thing as healthy natural trans fats. Natural trans fats are created in the stomachs of ruminant animals like cattle, sheep, goats, etc. and make their way into the fat stores of the animals. Therefore, the milk fat and the fat within the meat of these animals can provide natural healthy trans fats. Natural trans fats in your diet have been thought to have some potential benefit to aid in both muscle building and fat loss efforts. However, keep in mind that the quantity of healthy trans fats in the meat and dairy of ruminant animals is greatly reduced by mass-production methods of farming and their grain and soy heavy diets. Meat and dairy from grass-fed, free-range animals always have much higher quantities of these beneficial fats.
One such natural trans fat that you may have heard of is called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and has been marketed by many weight loss companies. Keep in mind that these man-made CLA pills you see in the stores may not be the best way to get CLA in your diet. They are artificially made from plant oils, instead of the natural process that happens in ruminant animals. Once again, man-made just doesn’t compare to the benefits of natural sources.
Now that all of your labels should be listing grams of trans fat, keep in mind that if a quantity of trans fat is listed on a meat or dairy product, it is most likely the natural good trans fats that we’ve discussed here. Otherwise, if the quantity of trans is listed on any processed foods, it is most likely the dangerous unhealthy crap from artificially hydrogenated oils, so stay away!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this interesting look at good trans fat vs. bad trans fat and use the info to arm yourself with more healthful food choices for a better body.
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Michael Geary is a nationally dual certified personal trainer (NCSF-CPT, AFAA-CPT), and author of the internationally-selling The Truth about Six Pack Abs ©2004-2006.