Why are trans fats bad for your health? Ways to include healthy fats in your diet  |  Photo Credit: iStock Images
- Trans fats are found naturally in small quantities in some foods such as meat and dairy products
- Consuming trans fat has been linked to heart disease, inflammation, higher level of LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol, etc
- Here’s all you need to know about trans fats and how you can avoid them in your diet
New Delhi: Tans fats, unlike other dietary fats, have been linked to a number of health problems. Trans fats still pose a public health problem although regulators have restricted their use. Eating trans fats raises your bad cholesterol levels, increasing your risk of developing heart disease and other related conditions.
But, what exactly are trans fats, how are they made, or why are they bad for your health? To help you clear up these questions and other concerns about trans fats, we spoke to Dr Udgeath Dhir, Director and Head, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram.
What are trans fats?
Trans fats are a form of unsaturated fats that come in both natural and artificial form. Naturally occurring trans fats are produced in the gut of some animals and are found in meat products – they may contain small quantities of trans fats. Artificial trans fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Along with making food tastier and giving it the right texture, trans fats are inexpensive to produce and last a long time.
How do they affect the heart and overall health?
Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. They are associated with a number of cardiovascular diseases and other non-communicable diseases. Research has proved the direct connection of trans-fatty acids with cardiovascular diseases, breast cancer, shortening of pregnancy period, risk of preeclampsia, disorders of nervous system and vision in infants, colon cancer, diabetes, obesity, and allergy.
Since the body doesn’t actually require trans fats to function, people should avoid eating them as much as possible. They are generally found in processed and packaged foods. However, this depends on the ingredients used in the particular item – one should check the labels for trans-fats before purchasing such foods. While its fine to treat yourselves to sweets and other high-fat foods occasionally, trans fats should be completely avoided, and be replaced with foods that have polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
Tips to avoid trans fats and make healthier choices
The following tips can help people avoid or limit the intake of trans fats:
- Opt for a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc
- Use safflower or olive oil instead of butter and other solid fats
- Switch from solid margarine to soft margarine
- Avoid fried, packaged, and processed foods
- Replace meats with skinless chicken or fish a few days a week
- Replace whole fat dairy with low-fat or non-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Limit sugary foods
- Additionally, always check the nutrition facts label and the ingredient list to see if ‘partially hydrogenated oils’ is on the list.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.