Fats are an extremely important part of a healthy diet, and the essential fatty acids are named essential for a reason. They aid in just about every bodily function as they play a crucial role in cell wall function. Working as a transporter, they pass oxygen and nutrients through the cell wall and help to keep invaders and other foreign bodies out of the cell. Other functions performed include brain cell function, immune system, nervous system and hormone function.
So what is hydrogenation and what are the results of ingesting partially hydrogenated fats into your body? Well, hydrogenation is simply the process of heating an oil to the point where hydrogen bubbles enter, becomes attached to the fatty acids and form a solid in fully hydrogenated and more of a thick cream, or butter texture when partially hydrogenated. Hydrogenated oil has a high level of trans fats and these trans fats act within a cell in a confused manor and will keep nutrients out and let the foreign bodies in. Not only do these trans fats lead to obesity, but also are linked to disease such as diabetes and coronary disease (the leading killer in America).
Trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils can be found in a number of foods, and are used because they are a less expensive alternative to other cooking substitutes such as butter. Baked goods, potato chips, cookies, crackers, are just a few of the food categories that contain partially hydrogenated oils, the worst of which is partially hydrogenated soybean oil. This soybean oil is noted to negatively affect the thyroid function resulting in feeling sluggish, a decrease in energy and reluctance to want to exercise.
How much trans fat is bad? When you find out something can lead to heart disease and obesity, I wouldn’t take any chances and I would avoid any of it at all costs. Some reports have shown that .5g of trans fat is equal to approximately 1.5g of unsaturated fat in terms of how it affects your health. You won’t see this in the label of many products as .5 g can still be labeled as 0% trans fat due to federal law. But when you scroll down the ingredients, you might come across partially hydrogenated oil present in the first few lines.
The best way to avoid trans fat is to read your labels thoroughly. Avoid grocery shopping in the middle aisles for food and stay on the outskirts of the store where the fresh produce, dairy and meat are located. When cooking, choose to cook with virgin coconut oil, although high in saturated fat, and low on many health food lists, it is unaffected by heat, and it is metabolized differently than other oils as it will be burned as fuel and not stored into the fat cells. Fats are extremely important to our diet, but you can make healthy choices about fats by reading labels and learning about the different types of fats and how they affect the body.