Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that trans fats are thought to contribute to heart disease, weight gain, and other health problems. These transformed fatty acids are commonly referred to as Trans Fatty Acids or TFA’s and are present in most of the packaged foods found in the grocery store and your pantry!
Trans fats are produced by hydrogenation – the process of heating an oil and passing hydrogen through it. This process turns liquid oils into solid (margarine, Crisco) and extends the shelf life of most processed foods. The high temperatures used to heat the oils also destroy the essential fatty acids and transforms them into trans fats (short for transformed fatty acid). These fats compete with essential fatty acids for absorption in the body and are thought to contribute to coronary heart disease by raising LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol), while lowering the HDL levels( good cholesterol). They also increase platelet aggregation, which in turn increases the chance of blood clotting, strokes and heart attacks. And if that isn’t bad enough, they also create free radicals that have been linked to cancer.
If you are on a low carb diet, chances are that you don’t eat very many processed or fried foods so you won’t be consuming much food with trans fats. If you are sticking to mostly low fat meats and vegetables you’re probably in pretty good shape as far as trans fats ingestion goes. Margarine is high in trans fats, but there are several brands out there that have no trans fats so if you are eating a lot of margarine, you may want to look into the brand you are buying. Mos of the foods high in trans fatty acids like chips, donuts, muffins, cakes, candy, soups, breads, margarine, cheese spreads, and cookies are no-no’s on a low carb eating plan so cutting them out of your diet has the added health benefit of reducing your intake of these fats.
How do you know if a food has them? Well, the food industry doesn’t make it easy, they rarely put their content on the labels so you will need to figure it out by reading the ingredients. When buying packaged foods beware of the word “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” in the list of ingredients. These foods will contain trans fatty acids. If you are leading a low carb lifestyle you probably won’t be buying these foods anyway so not to worry!