Trans fat, a shudder-causing ingredient for health experts, is formed when natural vegetable oil is hardened through hydrogenation to prolong the taste or shelf life of certain foods.
Studies show that continued consumption of trans fat—even as little as one gram of it—can increase “bad” cholesterol, put you at a greater risk for heart disease, and possibly trigger type 2 diabetes (particularly in women).
It’s rather easy to miss the presence of trans fat in some foods. Here’s a useful guide of foods to avoid to help you stay healthy:
- Microwaved popcorn: Popcorn is one of those snacks that gets away lightly—not many suspect it of being fattening. The truth is, microwaved popcorn contains trans fat. Caution: even if a product declares ‘Trans Fat: 0 grams,” it can contain trans fat if one of the ingredients listed is ‘shortening’ or ‘hydrogenated oil.’
- Potato chips: These are one of the worst culprits, with one small bag carrying three or more grams of trans fat. Munch on almonds or trail mix instead.
- Crackers: They look innocuous enough, but ‘saltine’ crackers and ‘animal’ crackers often contain trans fat. Read the labels!
- Certain cereals: Some cereals, especially the sweeter varieties, though attractive to children, often have harmful trans fat in them. The same goes for many ‘protein bars’ that are marketed as ‘healthy’. It’s best to stick to good old oatmeal and granola. (See: Top 10 Worst Cereals)
- Frozen food: Those pies, pizzas and waffles are no doubt convenient to serve up, but they often contain high amounts of trans fat. As much as possible, avoid them.
- French fries: They are perhaps the most obvious one on this list, but need special mention because just a medium order of fries can load you with an alarming eight grams of trans fat. (Your daily intake of this fat should be as close to 0 grams as possible!)
- Cookies: We all love them, and most of us eat at least two to three of them at one go, but it is not a good idea, because just three cookies can pack in nearly three dangerous grams of trans fat. Similarly, cake mixes, criossants and pies tend to be loaded with trans fats. Avoid the store-bought stuff, and make your own, healthier versions of your favorite bakes.
- Vegetable shortening: While shortening prolongs shelf life, it also blocks your arteries. Unless you’re sure a variety of it is trans fat free, stay away.
- Margarine Sticks: To stay firm and solid, margarine needs to be hydrogenated. The result: trans fat. Enough said.