I love hot chocolate. It’s my favorite drink on a cold day. But, it’s hard to find hot chocolate that isn’t loaded down with trans fatty acids. Last month I found a hot chocolate that proudly proclaimed from its label “contains no trans fats!” I was so excited (I’m a foodie and I get excited about stuff like this). I flipped the container over to read the nutrition label, the first ingredient? TRANS FAT!
You’re first question is probably, “how can they do that?” Here’s how food manufacturers get away with pulling the wool over your eyes… The FDA has stated that trans fat only needs to be listed on a food label if the food contains 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. You guessed it. If a food has 0.49 grams of trans fat the food company can say it is TRANS FAT FREE. Trans fats in any amount can be dangerous for your body. In fact, The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 2 grams per day. If I would have drank 2 cups of that hot chocolate, I would be halfway to my recommended total for the day.
Why avoid trans fats?
- It raises your LDL, bad cholesterol levels.
- It lowers HDL levels.
- It increases triglyceride levels.
- It can cause inflammation in the body.
- It can greatly increase your risk for heart disease (Harvard School of Public Health believes trans fats are responsible for 1 in 5 heart attacks).
Food manufacturers use trans fats because they increase shelf life, keep flavors stable and its very inexpensive. For many years, most of the “junk” foods—cookies, cakes, candies, chips, crackers, and some margarines—were made with hydrogenated (another name for trans fats) oils. But with the negative attention given to trans fats, many manufacturers are cutting back or eliminating their use. But always read your food labels.
Here is what you don’t want on your food label:
- Partially hydrogenated
- Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
- Vegetable shortening
A great quote from Harvard School of Public Health: An analysis of the health effects of industrial trans fats conducted by researchers with the Harvard School of Public Health Department of Nutrition indicates that eliminating trans fats from the U.S. food supply could prevent up to 1 in 5 heart attacks and related deaths. That would mean a quarter of a million fewer heart attacks and related deaths each year in the United States alone. That should motivate you to take a few extra seconds to read your food labels-it certainly motivates me!