By Jamie Liow
Trans fat (or trans fatty acids) are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Another name for trans fats is “partially hydrogenated oils” or “shortening”. To know what products contain these fats, look through the ingredients’ lists on various food packaging the next time you drop by the supermarket.
Studies show that trans fat not only raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels but also decrease your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. A high intake in your diet in the long term may lead to an increased risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
Some frequently answered questions below may help you in spotting the areas in which these fats can creep into your diet daily.
How and why is trans fat used?
Trans fat gives products a more desirable texture and mouthfeel and they have a longer shelf-life than other oils. When oils with trans fat are used for deep-frying, they remain stable even after being used many times over, making it the preferred choice of oil for food companies and restaurants that do commercial deep-frying.
Are trans fat only found in commercial products?
No. They are also found naturally in meats like beef and lamb and dairy products, however, in really small amounts.
Does 'zero trans fat' really mean no trans fat at all?
Some imported products from the USA for example have got "zero trans fat" stated on the label. The US Food and Drug Administration has allowed that as long as a product has less than 0.5g of trans fat per serving, the product can actually state "zero trans fat" on the packaging.
Read the ingredients’ list carefully. If it states "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" or "shortening" on the label, the product will contain some amount of trans fat.
Is something with no trans fat at all necessarily healthy?
Not necessarily because in place of trans fat, food manufacturers may use other forms of fat like saturated fat instead. So do read labels carefully. Sometimes the NIP (Nutrition Information Panel) may also give you a breakdown of the different kind of fat in the product. What you want is a product that contains more of the unsaturated kinds of fats than the saturated.