Trans Fat Extends Shelf Life of Processed Foods
In a moment of epiphany, some fellow in a lab coat raised his right hand and extended his index finger toward the sky. He shouted something like, “Eureka, I have it,” and then slammed his palm onto a tabletop, knocking beakers onto their sides and rattling the cages of celebrating lab mice. He lifted the test tube that was filled with a green and pulsating jell to eye level and spoke again: “We will call it trans fat, and it is good. Foods will have longer shelf lives, frying oil can be used for longer periods, and bakery goods will maintain their freshness longer. Everything will be longer.” The lab mice erupted into thunderous applause.
Okay, so some of this is an embellishment. To be even more succinct, most of what you have just read isn’t true at all. I made it up. Too bad though, it had a sort of “Watson, are you there?” flavor to it. Putting all that aside, here are some facts.
What is Trans Fat?
Trans fats are man-made fats that begin as liquid vegetable oils. Hydrogen is added, and the liquid turns into a partial solid. They do extend shelf life and the texture of foods. Popularized in the 1970’s, partially hydrogenated vegetable fats were used in fried and baked goods. Eureka.
Well, not so fast. It has since been discovered that the hydrogenation process turns the artificial fat into an artery clogging problem. It also raises the level of LDL or bad cholesterol and is high in calories. As a package, this translates into an overweight population. Applauding mice, exit stage right.
The Trans Fat Ban
In a moment of epiphany, some fellow in a three-piece suit raised his right hand and extended his index finger toward the sky. He shouted something like, “Eureka, I have it,” and then slammed his palm onto a tabletop, scattering documents and rattling pens free from penholders. “We will call it trans fat, and it is bad. It clogs our arteries and makes us fat. We must banish it.” Legislators erupted into thunderous applause.
Okay, more lies, but here are some facts.
In December of 2006, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced intentions to phase out trans fats from city restaurants. By November of 2009, 98% of New York Restaurants were in compliance with the new regulations.
Since then, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, and New Hampshire have introduced bills to ban trans fats from restaurants in their cities.
A Win For the Good Guys (More or Less)
While an impressive degree of progress has been made in limiting trans fats, many restaurants continue to go about their business of closing flow through arteries. Beware of burgers and sandwiches. Beef may only contain small amounts of trans fat, but the buttered roll it comes on is another story.
Avoiding French fries and onion rings is not a bad idea, and fried mozzarella sticks and flaky biscuits are also high in trans fat. Try some fresh fruit or steamed vegetables instead. Salad is usually a good choice, but proceed with caution regarding the dressing that you use. Oil and vinegar or fresh lemon juice work nicely.
Desserts are heaped in trans fat, and if you could learn to live without them it would be to your advantage.
Living life well-fed,
SG Gate - http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/much-trans-fat-restaurant-foods-4930.html
The Los Angeles Times - http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/booster_shots/2009/07/trans-fats-in-restaurants-the-new-york-city-experience.html
WebMD - http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/avoiding-trans-fats-in-restaurants
Published On: January 23, 2013