We need some fat in our diet to remain healthy, but not all fats are the same. Whilst unsaturated fats have clear health and performance benefits, trans fats certainly do not. Trans fats are present in a number of different processed foods. Artificial trans fats are produced when vegetable oils are hydrogenated. These fats are widely used in baked goods to extend the shelf life of the product or in margarine and spreads.
Naturally occurring trans fats are not thought to be as harmful to our health as artificial trans fats. They tend to be found in small amounts in cheese, cream, beef, lamb and products made from these foods. However, it is thought that our intake of natural trans fats already meets the recommended daily intake and therefore, the consumption of any processed or fried foods containing artificial trans fats would exceed safe levels.
Trans fats raise blood cholesterol levels, particularly the bad cholesterol LDL, and increase triglyceride levels. All in all, your risk of coronary heart disease is higher with a diet containing trans fats.
Foods containing artificial trans fats
No food manufacturer has to label ‘trans fats’ in the nutrition information on packaging. You need to check the list of ingredients and look for hydrogenated fats or hydrogenated vegetable oils. The higher up the list these appear, the more trans fats the product is likely to contain.
To optimize health and performance, aim to reduce the amount of trans fats in your diet. In general, trans fats are found in fried and processed foods.