Trans Fats: Still Hiding Out in These Foods
- Mel’s weekly food pick: Raw Cashews
- Mel’s weekly recipe pick: Better-4-You Rice Crispy Treats
If there’s one ingredient you should consider eliminating from your diet in 2019, it’s trans fat. They are the epitome of fake ingredients, and a major contributor to inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, low HDL (good cholesterol) and high LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.
I’ve been talking about trans fats since 2006, the year the FDA began requiring food companies to list them on their food labels. If I’m being honest, on one hand I am sick to death of the topic, while on the other, shaking my head in disbelief that I‘m still having this conversation.
Trans fats: The good news
The FDA set a June 2018 deadline for the removal of trans fats from all processed food. However, this ban applies only to the addition of trans fats in the creation of any brand new products.
Unfortunately, foods already on the shelf were granted an additional “grace” year (until June 2019) before they must be officially free from trans fats.
Less than six months to go…we’re on the homestretch!
How to spot trans fats in the mean time
To spot trans fats, you’ll have to look at the list of ingredients, because it is perfectly legal to label a product as zero grams if it contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. Scan the list of ingredients for these other code names for trans fats: “hydrogenated oil”, “partially hydrogenated oil” and “shortening”.
While researching trans fat-containing foods for an upcoming television spot, I was surprised to discover that many companies already removed them from their products and replaced them with other fats like soybean and canola oil. Although not as big of a threat as trans fats, due to their high omega-6 content, these substitutes are still inflammatory and far from healthy.
That’s a topic for another discussion.
To this day, products like powdered coffee creamer, hot cocoa mix, cakes, cookies, and soft tortillas still contain trans fats. Protect your health and be a savvy label-reader, because there exists no safe level of trans fat in your body.
The bad news: monoglycerides and diglycerides contain trans fats (and they are perfectly legal!)
Yes, trans fats will soon be illegal…but monoglycerides and diglycerides are perfectly legal.
Why should you care about these two ingredients and what do they have to do with trans fats?
Monoglycerides and diglycerides are considered emulsifiers, which are food additives used to help water and oil blend together. They contain small amounts of trans fat, but because they’re classified as emulsifiers (and not lipids) the FDA ban doesn’t apply to them.
Remember what I said, there is NO safe level of trans fats in your body.
Take a stroll down the grocery aisles and you will be shocked at how many products contain mono and diglyerides. Products like:
- Rice Krispies Treats (check out this week’s recipe pick for a homemade Better-4-You Rice Crispy Treat!)
- Peanut butter (like Jif)
- Cereal bars (like Nutri-Grain bars)
- Ice cream
- Baked goods
- Shortening (like Crisco)
- Margarine (like Promise)
A no-brainer idea for avoiding trans fats and limiting other fake ingredients:
I know you know the answer, but I’ll shout it from the rooftop anyway:
EAT MORE REAL FOOD!
Listen, I don’t expect you to eat nothing but single-ingredient Earthfoods from now until eternity and never allow a processed food to pass your lips. That can quickly turn into borderline disordered eating. Ever hear of orthorexia?
The good news is, when you spend most of your grocery trip shopping the perimeter of the store, you take a giant leap towards eliminating harmful fats and other fake ingredients, as they are found mostly in processed foods housed in the inner aisles.
Resources to help you make better (not perfect) food choices in 2019
To help you kick off the New Year on the right foot, here is a short collection of the many posts I’ve written:
- Restore Inner Harmony with Your Food, Body and Health
- The Best Diet for Managing Your Blood Sugar
- These Foods Can Help Heal You
- Why You Crave Certain Foods (and why it’s OK)
- A 5-Step Plan to Kick Your Sugar Habit in 10-Days
- How to Rekindle Your Love Affair with Sleep
- How to Fashion an Eating Style That Works for You
- Watching This Movie Will Change the Course of Your Life
- Nutrition, Health, and Motivational Resources to Uplift and Educate You
I leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Soren Kierkegaard, featured in my new book Missing Peace: Eleven Secrets to Restore Inner Harmony with Your Food, Body, and Health:
“A man who as a physical being is always turned toward the outside, thinking that his happiness lies outside him, finally turns inward and discovers that the source is within him”
— Soren Kierkegaard
Mel’s weekly food pick:
You’ve heard me ramble on about the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and the inflammatory nature of omega-6 fatty acids.
In a nutshell 🙂 , although both are considered essential fatty acids, we eat far too many omega-6 fats and not nearly enough omega-3’s. Nuts are a natural source of omega-6’s and—if they were the only source we ate—wouldn’t pose a health risk (unless of course you ate a truckload!).
Sadly, nuts aren’t the main source of our omega-6 fats in the US.
Industrial vegetable and seed oils, like canola, cottonseed, corn, and soybean oil, contribute to our high consumption of omega-6’s. And in case you didn’t know, these oils are overly abundant in processed foods, like chips, crackers, cereals, and frozen meals.
Enter cashew nuts. Although not a significant source of omega-3’s, the fat in these naturally sweet nuts is predominantly oleic acid, which is the monounsaturated fat found in olive oil. Even better, they contain only a small amount of omega-6 fatty acids.
Yes, cashew nuts are good for you…so find a way to include them in your meals on a more regular basis. Here are some great ideas:
- Pop a handful for a snack or add to a homemade trail mix.
- Whip up an easy 5-Minute Cashew Sauce and use as a replacement for heavy cream-based sauces.
- Blend a batch of cashew cheese and spread on Flacker’s flax-based crackers!
- Make a simple cashew-based dairy-free cheesecake.
- Blend raw cashews in your food processors and voila…you have homemade cashew butter! Check out this week’s recipe pick for Better-4-YOU Rice Crispy Treats, made with cashew butter and raw honey instead of marshmallows!
And in case you are wondering, raw cashews are best!
Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Better-4-You Rice Crispy Treats