Damaged Fats: What are they and why you should avoid them
Author: Riley Pearce
Social Media Director
Personal Trainer – Byward Market
If the rise of the ketogenic diet’s popularity has done anything (don’t worry this isn’t another keto diet blog), it has restarted the conversation about fats. More specifically good fats vs. bad fats. We have touched on some of this in our various blog posts about fats and cholesterol. This week we want to go a little deeper into the topic.
Through the industrialisation of food, food manufacturer’s have come up with ways to cut costs and create cheaper products to help boost their profit margins. In doing this, they have created ingredients that should not otherwise exist. Damaged fats are a scary example of this. Scary because of the effect they have on our body – down to a cellular level!
So what is a damaged fat and why should you avoid them? Read more to find out!
What is a “damaged fat”?
Damaged fats are fats that have been altered by a manufacturing process. Typically by condensing the fats and adding heat to hydrogenate them. These become trans-fats. Trans is a term in chemistry that describes the orientation of chemical bonds around a double bond.
If you think of typical oils that are used in cooking or that you would find on food labels you have examples like olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, and grapeseed oil – to name a few. Now if you think of the origin of those oils, which ones are naturally oily?
Olives are like nature’s fat bomb. You squeeze an olive and you get oil. This is a great example of a natural and healthy oil. Olives do not need to be overly processed in order yield olive oil. Soybeans on the other hand are very different. A soybean is a small, dry, bean. 1 bushel of soybeans, which is about 60lbs of soybeans, only makes around 10lbs of soybean oil. This means that the soybeans need to be seriously modified and manufactured in order to create soybean oil, and even then the yield is 1lb for every 6lbs of soybeans.
Soybean oil is one of the great examples of a cheap crop that is used to death to manufacture food. What the manufacturer’s may not have realized while they were cutting costs was that by altering and damaging the fats, they were creating harmful foods for our bodies.
Why You Should Avoid Them
These trans fats are so harmful to the body that they can worsen memory, weaken arteries, and change the structure of our cells. Trans-fats are actually pro-oxidants, meaning they cause oxidative stress in the body. You’ve likely heard of antioxidants? Things like dark berries and green tea are all examples of antioxidants and are great for the body because they protect your body from oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress has been linked to illnesses such as cancer, and so the less we have of it the better.
Furthermore, trans-fats prevent a necessary component of blood flow from forming. The more trans-fats you eat, the less you produce this component (prostacyclin for those wondering), which leads to weaker blood flow and therefore heart disease and arterial complications.
Fats like sunflower, corn, and soybean oil all oxidize cholesterol in the body. Remember our good vs. bad cholesterol blog? Well when you consume these oils, they change the chemical structure of the bad cholesterols, making them the perfect plaque for your arteries, leading to heart disease.
What’s worse is they are finding connections between heart disease risk factors and brain health risk factors. So if you are consuming a lot of these damaged fats, not only are you putting your heart at risk, but you are also jeopardizing the functionality and health of your brain. If you want to remain sharp and healthy for a long time, it is best to avoid these damaged fats.
Here is the full list of oils and foods that contain these harmful fats:
Heated Olive Oil – do not put olive into a pan
Refined palm oil
Fake whip cream
Fake butter spreads (margarine)
Store-bought pastries (usually prepared with damaged oil)
Restaurant fried foods
Most chips and crackers
Most salad dressings and mayo brands (they use cheap, damaged oils – make sure to check the ones that say “olive oil”on them. They may still have canola or vegetable oils in them!)
Some good news – Canada has taken action to fully ban trans fats from our food supply. Any food that is manufactured with partially hydrogenated oils will no longer be eligible for sale in Canada. With that said, there is a 2 year grace period for store-owners to clear inventory of these items from their shelves.
Isn’t it gross that these foods can survive on the shelf for 2 years? Something to think about.
So moving forward, take a second look at the food labels and ingredients lists in your kitchen and consider switching to some of the healthier, less harmful options.