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What Is Trans Fat? (Everything You Need To Know)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: February 17, 2022

Trans fats, also called trans-unsaturated fatty acids or trans-fatty acids, are a type of dietary fat found in small amounts in meat and dairy products and highly processed foods such as baked goods, shortening, frozen pizza, and fried foods.

They are the primary cause of tens of thousands of fatal heart attacks a year in the US. The average American consumes much more trans fats than recommended because they are inexpensive, carry a long shelf life, and are easily available.

As someone who has been coaching people in fitness and nutrition for almost a decade now, I can tell you they are your enemy if you’re trying to get into shape.

Let’s look into why this is the case.

Quick Summary

  • Trans fat is dietary fat, which, unlike unsaturated fat, is considered harmful.
  • Trans fat-rich foods are usually high in calories and can lead to issues like diabetes and obesity.
  • Trans fats can be natural or artificial; artificial trans fats are unhealthier than naturally occurring trans fats.
  • Trans fat-rich foods lower your good cholesterol and raise your bad cholesterol.

How Trans Fats Affect Your Health?

big woman showing her body fats

In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration determined that partially hydrogenated oil — a major source of trans fat in food supplies — is no longer considered GRAS (generally recognized as safe) [1].

In its five-year program (2019-2023), the World Health Organization stated that eliminating trans fats from the world's food supply was one of its priorities [2].

Consuming trans-fat-rich food can lead to many health problems such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes.

A 2011 study showed that trans fat raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL), triglycerides and insulin levels and reduces beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) [3].

LDL is your bad cholesterol, whereas HDL is good cholesterol. The rise of the former and the lowering of the latter may lead to the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. This, in turn, increases the risk of stroke or heart disease.

Additionally, food rich in trans fats may increase the risk of diabetes and obesity as they are rich in calories and sugar.

According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Heart Association, trans fats should be less than 1 percent of your daily caloric intake [4]. So, if you’re on a standard 2,000-calorie diet, you should be consuming less than 2 grams of trans fat a day.

PHO is known to raise cholesterol levels, so much so that in 2015, the FDA claimed that it led to an increased risk of heart disease, and removing it from our diet could prevent thousands of heart attacks every year [5].

What Is the Difference Between Trans Fat and Other Fats?

slices of avocadoes and a plate of mackerel fish

There are healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. These are good for maintaining healthy cholesterol and lowering the risk of developing heart disease.

Monounsaturated fat-rich foods include:

  • Canola
  • Olive
  • Sunflower
  • Peanut
  • Sesame oils
  • Avocados
  • Nuts

Polyunsaturated fat-rich foods include:

  • Walnuts
  • Corn oil
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Safflower oil
  • Fish such as tuna, trout, and mackerel

Foods Containing Trans Fats

sliced margarine and a woman eating pizza

Trans fats in their manufactured form are called partially hydrogenated oils, and they are found in a variety of food products.

Although it’s not exhaustive, here’s a general list of artificial trans-fat food:

  1. Stick margarine
  2. Some brands of microwavable popcorn
  3. Frozen pizza
  4. Commercially fried foods such as nuggets, onion rings, fries, and fried chicken
  5. Baked goods such as muffins, cakes, pies, and cookies
  6. Non-dairy coffee creamer
  7. Shortening
  8. Pre-packaged baking mixes
  9. Certain spreads such as soft margarine and peanut butter
  10. Sugary foods

Naturally occurring trans fat can be found in dairy and meat products of certain animals.

How To Reduce Trans Fats in Your Diet?

hand view of a person slicing healthy food

The best way to reduce trans fatty acids is to know which foods contain them in high amounts and simply steer clear of them.

You should always strive to replace them with healthier options. For example, have mashed potatoes instead of french fries or lean meats instead of fatty meat.

Replace trans fat with other dietary fats. Consume more fruits, vegetables, unprocessed whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, lean poultry, and nuts because they contain little or no trans fats.

Avoid fried foods and most processed foods (not all contain trans fats), especially those containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Avoid fried foods and most processed foods (not all contain trans fats), especially those containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Choose organic foods, and opt for steamed, baked, broiled meals when going out to eat.

Avoid using vegetable oils with low smoking points when cooking, as they change their chemical makeup under high heath. Instead, use olive oil for light cooking and ghee for higher temperatures.

Butter and ghee are primarily made up of saturated fat, but they also contain many fat-soluble vitamins, so they should be okay when used in moderation (e.g., for cooking).

Read the food labels and the nutrition facts panel of all the packaged products you purchase at the grocery store. If you’re buying processed food, make sure the label says “trans-fat-free.”

Lastly, try baking at home instead of purchasing from the bakery and avoid using pre-packaged mixes.

What Are Trans Fats, and Are They Bad for You?

Trans fats are compounds that have no place in a human diet.

Research has shown time and again that foods with high trans fat content lead to problems like cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and diabetes.

Lifestyle interventions such as reducing body fat can go a long way in mitigating the consequences of poor dietary choices in the past. That way, you can shed off some of the accumulated trans-fats in your adipose tissue.

Reduced trans-fat foods, coupled with regular exercise and tested fat-burners such as PhenQ for men or Leanbean for women, may help you achieve your fitness goals faster and regain optimal health.


References:

  1. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/trans-fat
  2. https://www.who.int/news/item/14-05-2018-who-plan-to-eliminate-industrially-produced-trans-fatty-acids-from-global-food-supply
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3551118/
  4. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf
  5. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/trans-fat

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