Are trans fats in your snacks causing weight gain?

Many of the packaged foods have labels as ‘zero trans fats’. Although the food industry has reduced the use of trans fat in recent years, this type of fat is still making its way in many foods. Let us know more about trans fats and how it impacts our body weight and overall health.

What are trans fats?

Trans fat is a type of dietary fat, also called trans fatty acid is unsaturated fatty acid which have one or more double bond. They are present naturally but most of it is artificially made by the process of hydrogenation. Liquid oil is turned into solid fats like shortening by partial-hydrogenation.

Why are trans fats used in processed foods?

Trans fats have been widely used in processed foods and commercial baked goods because they improve shelf life and enhance texture and mouthfeel. Hydrogenation increases the melting point above room temperature converting liquid oils to solid in a process called hardening.  In India Vanaspati is a trans-fat, prepared by hydrogenation of vegetable oils where the liquid oil becomes solid because the mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids are converted into saturated fatty acids and isomers called trans fatty acids. Vanaspati is used as a substitute for ghee in cooking and baking of sweets and snack foods. Since saturated fats are more stable to oxidation, foods prepared in vanaspati stay fresh for a longer time.

How do trans-fats impact your body weight and heart health?

Trans fats themselves do not directly cause weight gain, they can contribute to weight gain indirectly as foods high in trans fats are often high in calories and low in nutritional value. They are usually rich in refined carbohydrates, sugars, and unhealthy fats, which can lead to over-eating and weight gain.

Trans fats also interfere with the body's ability to regulate appetite and metabolism. Research suggests that trans fats may alter hormone levels and affect insulin sensitivity, both of which can influence weight regulation.

Trans fats increase bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood, decrease good cholesterol (HDL) and have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes as they cause inflammation.

Where are these found and how to cut down or avoid Trans fats and achieve Overall good health?

As mentioned earlier, trans fat is used in baked and processed foods, so watch out for those favourite puffs, cakes, pastries and cookies from your nearby bakery, most bakeries use vanaspathi as it is cheap. It is recommended that you avoid processed foods or at least read the food labels. Frozen pizzas, pre-made refrigerated dough, cake mixes, microwave popcorn may contain trans fat. Avoid all those packets which have no proper labels or  Nutritional table without trans fat content mentioned on it.  It is safe to look for products labelled as ‘trans fat-free’ or ‘zero trans fats’ and cut down fried foods from outside in order to avoid gaining weight.

Mostl street or restaurant fried foods may contain trans fats as the same oil may be used over and over several times or even several days. At high temperature, some of the fats in oil change into trans fats. When oils are reused, the amount of trans fats increases. Home cooked fresh food is always healthier and avoid reusing oil several times for frying.

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