BY JAMES S. BURKHARDT, D.O.
Recently the Food and Drug Administration announced that trans-fats are no longer “generally recognized as safe.” I applaud this announcement. But just what are trans fats and why is there concern?
Trans fats are partially hydrogenated oils. Partially hydrogenated oil is formed when hydrogen is added to liquid oils to make solid fats like shortening and margarine. It increases the shelf life and the flavor of foods. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, or shortening, was used in American kitchens as early as 1911. Small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in beef, lamb, and full-fat dairy products. But most come from processing liquid vegetable oil to become a solid fat.
Trans fat can be found in processed foods including desserts, microwave popcorn products, frozen pizza, margarine and coffee creamer, and has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. However, in recent years many food manufacturers have taken steps to limit or eliminate trans fat from their products.
McDonald’s, for instance, stopped cooking french fries in trans fat more than a decade ago. The company’s website says all fried menu items are free of trans fat.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting total trans fat intake to less than 1 percent of total daily calories. Translated, if consuming 2,000 calories a day, 20 calories or fewer should come from trans fats, equating to less than 2 grams daily. Keep in mind this amount includes naturally occurring trans fats.
The bottom line is to stick to healthy fats whenever possible. Research has shown the omega-3 fats in fish oil may decrease muscle protein break-down. This may be through improvements in insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance associated with muscle break-down. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed fish oil helps to enhance the effect of strength training in elderly women. Omega 3 fatty acids in particular have been associated with lowered risk of coronary artery disease, helping to reduce inflammation.
So while it may be impossible to resist chocolate from Winan’s (because it is delicious) remember to try and make some better choices through the holidays. Again, a diet containing a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products is preferable. Moving to fat free and low fat dairy products is better. Changing to eat leaner meats and poultry as well as fish such as salmon can promote a healthier lifestyle.