Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ban the trans

As of July 2007, eating establishments in New York were prohibited from using cooking oils that contained trans fats. They have until July 2008 to eliminate artificial trans fats from all their foods. Denmark has also passed legislation requiring limits to the levels of trans fats in food.

In Canada, we're not so lucky. The extent of the government's action plan is to ask food companies to voluntarily reduce trans fats from their products by 2009. However, different cities, like Toronto and Calgary, are taking matters into their own hands. On the plus side, we were the first country to make labelling of trans fats mandatory.
So, what's a trans fat?
It's the product of taking a healthy liquid oil and pumping it with hydrogen (hydrogenation)- a process that hardens the oil, making it spreadable. They're used by the food industry cause they're cheap and stable so they increase the product's shelf life.

Why are they bad?
They not only increase your "lousy" LDL cholesterol but also lower your "healthy" HDL cholesterol. They also increase triglycerides (fat in your blood) and appear to increase inflammation that is thought to play a key role in the formation of blockages in heart blood vessels.
1 gram of trans fats is said to be 10 times worst than 1 gram saturated fat.

How much should you have?
The average Canadian is eating 10 grams trans fats a day! According to Health Canada, we should limit our intake to less than 2 grams a day. According to me, you should aim for 0 grams!!

What foods contain trans fats?
Trans fats are in most processed foods- spreads like shortening and margarines, packaged foods like pancake mixes, baked goods like muffins and doughnuts, instant soups and noodles, fast food and fried chicken, frozen foods like pies, pizzas, breaded fish and waffles, crackers, toppings and dips like whipping toppings, gravy mixes, salad dressings and non-dairy creamers.

Not all trans fat comes from hydrogenated vegetable oil. Meat and milk have small amounts of naturally occurring trans. But “small” becomes substantial (seven grams) when you’re ordering a 16-ounce prime rib.
See below for trans fat contents of some common foods.

How do you know you're eating trans fats?
Read the labels! All labels should have trans fats on the nutrition information table. Look for products with 0g
BUT
be aware that, in Canada, companies only have to label a product as having trans fats if the serving contains more than 0.2 grams. (In the States, only if there's 0.5 grams trans fats/serving!).
So you must read through the ingredient list. If you see the following ingredients, the product contains trans fats:
hydrogenated oil, partially hydrogenated oil, shortening.

For example, low fat peanut butter (Kraft) lists 0 grams trans fat/serving on the nutrition facts table but by reading the ingredient list you'll see 'hydrogenated oil'. So the product does in fact contain trans fats.

Lastly, remember, trans-fat free does not necessarily mean healthy, calorie-free or even saturated fat- free!!

The trans fats in some popular food products

Typical order of fried seafood combo pack: 10grams
Burger King Medium French Fries: 6.5 grams
Doughnut: 5 grams

Shortening (1 Tbsp): 4.2 grams
Cinnabon Cinnamon Roll: 4 grams
Small bag potato chips: 3.2 grams
Nabisco Chips Ahoy! Chocolate Chip Cookies (3 cookies): 1.5 grams
Kellogg's Cracklin' Oat Bran Cereal (3/4cup) : 1.5 grams

General Mills Cinnamon Toast Crunch (3/4 cup): 0.5 grams
Quaker Chewy Granola Bars Chocolate Chip (1 bar): 0.5 grams
Butter (1 Tbsp): 0.3 grams


Sources: http://www.cspinet.org/nah/6_99/transfat3.html ; http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/fats/transfats.html ;
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/nr-cp/2004/2004_trans_e.html

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