Monday, August 27, 2007

Translating Trans Fats . . .

My parents came to town to visit this weekend. They love time with their granddaughter (and their son and daughter-in-law, they say as an after thought (smile)). While we ate dinner one evening, the subject of trans fats came up.
I was sort of shocked to realize that my parents didn't really understand what trans fats are - OR that removing trans fats from foods does not in any way imply the foods are actually healthier for you (9 times out of 10 the trans fats are replaced with other fats in the overall nutritional content of the food) . . . just that one type of fat is removed.

Now, I'll grant you that trans fats are the "baddest" of the fats. Trans fats are a result of injecting liquid hydrogen in to otherwise "semi-harmless" vegetable oils to harden the oils. It is better for shipping the oils that way and it is easier to store the oils. One thing I read also said that trans fats allow food that is fried to cook faster and at higher tempuratures and I have also read that so called hydrogenated oils (trans fats) are also a cheap preservative for shelf foods (preboxed cookies and grocery store birthday cakes, for instance). Trans fats are thought to be so terrible because they are instant cholesterol impacters - they raise bad cholesterol and reduce good cholesterol. Not a good impact!

Dunkin Donuts is the latest food chain to announce that it will be removing trans fats from it's pillowy circles of dought and other decadent delights. Other chains include Starbucks, KFC and Baskin Robbins (owned by Dunkin Donuts).

I have a friend, Carrie, who lives in the DC area. She once went on a "No Hydrogenated Oils Diet." At first I thought that meant she wouldn't eat McDonald's any more or that she would no longer eat Oreos or whatever - I had NO idea, until she started her diet, just how common trans fats are in foods and just how many foods were no longer on Carrie's list of edible foods. Quite the education.

I feel the same way, since my surgery, about sugar. I know that we can have some sugar. That as long as it is a few grams or less per serving and the 6th (or lower) ingredient in a food you should be okay BUT I am fearful of dumping syndrome to the point where I even avoid fruit (and fructose is an "okay" sugar) for fear of what might happen.

The point is that food companies cutting trans fats from foods is great. I'm allllllll for it. BUT - let's be clear about what is really going on here and that food is not really any healthier for just getting the trans fat out. Cutting the FAT would be something to celebrate.
In the meantime - I have educated my parents (as Carrie educated me) a few years back and I hope that you will share your knowledge with a few others too . . . especially if you know someone (and who doesn't) that might have cholesterol problems (obese or not).



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