Fat is an important part of any healthy diet. It provides essential fatty acids and energy, and helps the body absorb needed vitamins like A, D and E. To function properly, our body needs a steady minimum intake of fatty acids.
But not all fats are made equal. What about trans fats? Are they really as bad as they say?
What is a trans fat?
There are four types of fatty acids found in food: polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, saturated and trans. Trans fats are naturally present at low levels in some animal-based food such as dairy products, beef and lamb, but they can also be formed when liquid oils are processed into semi-solid fats such as shortening and hard margarine. In fact, trans fats are found in all processed food. Along with saturated fat, they produce that sought-after “melt in your mouth” texture of prepared food.
Back when our diets contained only natural trans fats in small quantities, the health risks were virtually nil. But nowadays, synthetic trans fats are ubiquitous in processed food, making them much more of a health concern. According to the World Health Organization, trans fats should make up less than 1% of our daily caloric intake – which is far from the case for the majority of North Americans.