Ever since the Canadian Government passed a law in 2007 regarding the mandatory labelling of trans-fats within the foods we eat, manufacturers have captivated us with their big labels reading ‘Trans-fat Free!’
‘Hooray!’, many consumers think, ‘These cookies are trans-fat free, I’ll buy them!’
But what the flashy label says on the front may not entirely be true. Before we get into the specifics, many people don’t know why trans-fats are so bad for us. Well, in a nutshell, trans-fats are artificial fats that are made through a process of hydrogenation.
Manufacturers will take a normal, healthy fat (ie. canola or vegetable oil) which is a liquid at room temperature and will saturate it to make it a solid at room temperature. The result? A product that can stay fresher, longer.
The problem with trans-fats is, because it is artificial, our bodies cannot recognize it and doesn’t know what to do with it! So it decides to ‘park it’ right in the Times Square of our bodies – our arteries.
So now that we understand why trans-fats are no good (and kudos to the government for finally passing the law to let consumers know about this danger in our food), we still need to be savvy when reading labels. Right now, the law states that any food that has 0.5g of trans-fat or less in a serving, is considered ‘trans-fat free’. So what the smart folks at some of the packaged food companies have done is decrease their serving/portion size so that the amount of trans-fat becomes less than 0.5g!!! Therefore, they have free reign to advertise their product(s) as ‘trans-fat free!’. When I heard of this recently, I thought, ‘those rascals…!’ (or perhaps some other choice words!)
Here is the quick and easy way to determine if your food has trans-fat: read the list of ingredients. By law, all ingredients must be listed, in order of greatest to least quantity by volume. So if there is trans-fat oils being used, you’ll read it. Here are the key words you want to look for: Hydrogenated, partially-hydrogenated, palm oil, coconut oil or shortening.
If you read any of those ingredients on the label, you may want to put it down and keep walking – preferrably towards the produce aisle!