With health experts currently seeking food-warning labels, artery clogging trans fats have never been so in the news.
Trans fats are one of the most dangerous types of fat found in our food. Although trans fats can be present in unprocessed food straight from the natural source, many manufacturers go one step further and add trans fats to processed food. In an attempt to extend shelf life and increase ease of cooking, manufacturers add them in the form of artificial or synthetic additives. Research has shown that consumption of such fats contributes to an increased risk of cardiovascular problems and heart disease. Trans fats raise levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol and reduce ‘good’ cholesterol.
Alarmingly, these trans fats rarely crack a mention on food nutrition labels.
Ten of the most popular foods that contain dangerous levels of trans fats are outlined below. Be sure to check the food labels before you head to the check-out!
1. Non-Dairy Milk Substitutes
Non-dairy milk substitutes are often used in coffee or tea as a ‘healthy’ alternative to dairy. Use caution when choosing to use as these products contain trans fats, despite often being labeled as low fat or fat free. When looking at the nutritional information, be sure to note down the amount suggested to use. Often manufacturers list the serving size, and hence the nutritional values, as being one teaspoon, when we all know we heap many teaspoons in! Consider using nut milks or rice milk instead or make your own almond milk.
2. Cake Mixes
The convenience of being able to quickly whip up a cake prepared from a packaged box is appealing for many busy families. However, you may be shocked to find the high levels of trans fats found in the mix. And this also extends to other boxed baking mixes such as boxed pancake and waffle mixes. Even if they are gluten free they can still contain unhealthy levels of trans fats and artificial chemicals and preservatives. The best option to combat these trans fats is to prepare baked goods from scratch. In saying that, I understand that not everyone envisions themselves as the next Nigella! But try these super simple recipes such as Scrummy Gluten and Sugar Free Carrot Cake or Blueberry Mini Muffins.
3. Canned Soups
Canned soup may have been the choice for many a quick meal over the winter months. However, this seemingly healthy meal contains elevated levels of trans fats. Ramen noodles and dried noodle soups are unfortunately in the same boat! As you tuck into a bowl of warm ‘healthy’ soup or noodles, you are in fact exposing yourself to dangerous trans fats. My answer to this dilemma is to cook a homemade soup ahead of time, batch cooking and freezing portions for future lunches and snacks. Slow cookers can simmer away all day and be ready for you when you return home from work! Try this delicious tomato soup or Vegetable Soup on a Cold Night. If you don’t feel like making your own soup, there are now a couple of all natural and preservative free soups that you’ll find in your local health food market or supermarket.
4. Frozen Foods
On those rushed evenings when you’ve worked late and just want something quick to pop in the oven for dinner, frozen meals are not the answer if you’re looking to supercharge your health. Frozen foods are loaded with trans fats and although the packaging may claim that the product is low fat, natural, sugar free, it is always best to check the nutritional information where you will no doubt find artificial sugars, starches and trans fats. The worst frozen offenders are pies, pizza, fish sticks and waffles. On average, many frozen foods contain approximately 3-15g of trans fat per serving. Make fresh food ahead of time and snap freeze it for those nights when you need a quick fix.
5. Supermarket Bakery Items
The temptation of selecting a nicely decorated baked cake from your local supermarket is ever present as you wander down the aisles and artificial colours are screaming at you “Pick Me”. But before you give in to your temptation, it’s important to realize that the level of trans fats found in supermarket bakery items are often quite extreme. Commercially baked items contain some of the highest levels of trans fats in foods. A better option would be to make time on weekends to bake your own home made products, or aim to purchase a healthier version of home-made goodies from your local health food market.
6. Crackers And Snack Foods
Chips and crackers may taste good, and are the perfect size for snacking, but the amount of trans fat they contain per serving is staggering. Yes those good looking corn chips are a big no-no, they are laden with trans fats. If you’re a grazer like myself, it is best to ensure you have some healthy dehydrated crackers, dips and veggies on hand to fuel cravings. Why not try making your own Activated Almonds or Lemony Herb Crackers? They have the same crunchy texture without the huge amounts of trans fats so a much healthier alternative.
7. Salad Dressings
Salad dressings are absolutely laden with trans fats. The creamy varieties such as the ever popular Caesar, contain an astonishing amount of trans fats. To combat this unnecessary intake of fats, why not try making your own dressing based on olive oil and vinegar, some spices and fresh garlic. Try this homemade mayo. When choosing a bottled dressing, make sure to pick the natural ones without additives or preservatives and go for extra virgin oil-based dressings as opposed to the thick creamy ones.
Margarine is a commonly used food product in which you’ll find a high level of trans fat. In order to manufacture margarine, oils must be hydrogenated to create a firm stick. These hydrogenated oils are the basis for trans fats. Margarine production in Australia has seen manufacturers make an effort to reduce these high trans fat levels. If you are intent on using margarine, try to choose one that contains less than 1% trans fats. But better still, swap over to a nut or seed butter as an alternative to margarine it will serve you well in the long run. You might like to try this delicious Creamy Avocado and Tahini Spread.
Dips and condiments are a great snack or make a tasty spread for any sandwich or cracker. What is important to remember though is that most dips, especially the thick and creamy ones, contain high levels of trans fats. The next time you are perusing the deli section of a supermarket, check the labels and opt for hummus or salsa, without additives or preservatives both of which are healthy and delicious. You could also try making some No Bean Hummus or Baba Ganoush.
Popcorn is a quick and easy snack and often thought of as a healthy alternative to potato chips. Most people opt for microwave popcorn as this is a quick and convenient means of preparing a snack. However, despite the ease of preparation, microwave popcorn is loaded with trans fat. Using the traditional method of air popping the popcorn as opposed to the microwave, will allow you to have your snack without being concerned about the trans fats you can also pop in a brown paper bag and control the seasonings, try Celtic Sea Salt or Nutritional Yeast Flakes for a Cheesy flavour. Better still is to opt for making your own activated nuts or kale chips.