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The U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA, recommends that you completely remove trans fats, which are created by hydrogenation, from your diet 3. Hydrogenation changes the fatty acid structure when oils are placed under pressure. You can find trans fats listed on the nutrition facts label and hydrogenated oils listed under the ingredients section of all food products.
The process starts with polyunsaturated oil which is composed of fatty acids that contain double bonds. These double bonds prevent the fatty acids from packing tightly together, creating kinks in the fatty acids which keep it in liquid form. Hydrogenation adds hydrogen to these unsaturated fatty acids. The added hydrogen attaches to the double bonds causing the fatty acids to straighten and form a type of saturated fatty acids known as trans fats. These altered fatty acids are now solid at room temperature; therefore, they are more easily used in baked goods and other food products.
Foods with Trans Fat
The food industry began hydrogenating oils to make food items more shelf stable so they would not become rancid as quickly. Hydrogenated oils were also cheaper to use than animal fats. Primary hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated food items include vegetable oils, such as:
- soybean oil
- canola oil
- corn oil
- safflower oil
- sunflower oil
Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are often used in baked goods and processed food items, like cookies, chips, crackers and even some frozen food items. Other products containing trans fat include fried foods, such as french fries. You can check the ingredients list for any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils because trans fats are not always listed on the nutrition facts label.
Hydrogenated oils and food items containing them are detrimental to your health. When you eat trans fats, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases because trans fatty acids inhibit the function of insulin receptors. Trans fats cause:
- inflammation which affect your risk for heart disease
- heart attack
Certain animal meats and dairy contain a small amount of naturally occurring trans fat which has not been shown to have harmful effects on your body. The trans fat in processed food is what causes damage and has multiple health risks associated with them.
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