Trans-Fat Free…Does This Mean Healthy?

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Do you look for labels on foods to buy that say “trans-fat free”? If so, you could be falling into a trap of believing the food manufacturer telling you that a food is healthy when it is actually not.

This is a common problem with processed foods, where health claims on the label deceive the consumer into thinking the food is a healthy choice when in reality, that is not actually the case.

Many products containing unhealthy oils are lurking in the grocery store – crackers, breads, pretzels, chips, rice cakes, cookies, desserts, sauces, salad dressings, and broths, and soups just to name a few. Other establishments which advertise the “trans-fat free” term are fast-food restaurants. Many of these companies are responding to consumer concerns to a food supply that is riddled with toxic products by trying to assure the public that their foods are now healthier than they were before.

Many of these products – even those that are not “deep-fried” contain canola, soybean, cottonseed, or some other type of vegetable oil that becomes a trans-fat during processing. Most people assume that if something does not specifically read “hydrogenated”, it is healthy. These oils are high in polyunsaturated fats which are delicate and become damaged during processing, which includes deodorization and high temperatures.

According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, consumption of canola oil can cause health issues:

“Canola oil, processed from a hybrid form of rape seed, is particularly rich in fatty acids containing three double bonds and the shortening can contain as much as 50% trans fats. Trans fats of a particularly problematical form are also formed during the deodorization of canola oil, although they are not indicated on labels for the liquid oil.”

Another issue with canola oil is that much of it originates from genetically-engineered plant developed in Canada from the Rapeseed Plant. The way it appears on the shelf in the store is not its naturally-occurring substance from nature. It is a commercially-produced product from the industrial waste industry. Read more about the heavy processing and deodorization that occurs with oils like canola on the Weston A. Price web site.

Soybean oil is similarly processed, and also contains nutrient-inhibitors in this form which prevent the absorption of nutrients in the body.  Consumption of soy in anything except fermented form (miso or tempeh) can cause the following health issues:

  • thyroid malfunction
  • reproductive health problems, including infertility or interrupted sexual development
  • cancer

Soy contains potent enzyme inhibitors responsible for blocking the function of trypsin and various digestive enzymes necessary to absorb food.  Cooking does not entirely neutralize these substances. The result is chronic nutritional deficiencies in minerals and amino acid uptake, as well as digestive health disorders. It also contains high levels of phytic acid or phytates. Although this naturally-occurring acid is also present in various foods such as grains, corn, and nuts, it actually prevents uptake in the intestinal tract of critical minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and in particular, zinc.  Although many of these foods do contain these minerals, the presence of phytic acid prevents those from being absorbed.

From Weston A. Price:

“In test animals, diets high in trypsin inhibitors cause enlargement and pathological conditions of the pancreas, including cancer. The soybean also contains hemaglutinin, a clot promoting substance that causes red blood cells to clump together. Trypsin inhibitors and hemaglutinin have been rightly labled “growth suppressant substances.” They are deactivated during the process of fermentation. In precipitated products, enzyme inhibitors concentrate in the soaking liquid rather than the curd. Thus, in tofu and bean curd, these enzyme inhibitors are reduced in quantity, but not completely eliminated. “

All of the “vegetable oils” are high in polyunsaturated fats which are prone to oxidation and thus easily damaged and become rancid by processing, heat, and light. Read about the origination of cottonseed oil products and why it is so unhealthy to consume here.

The healthiest oils and fats to consume are those eaten by traditional civilizations throughout history:

  • cold pressed, extra-virgin olive oil (can be used on lower heat)
  • cold pressed, extra virgin coconut oil and refined coconut oil (can be used on high heat)
  • cold-pressed flax-seed oil (do not heat this oil)
  • real butter from grass-fed cows (great for cooking – saturated fats are very stable and healthy to consume)
  • lard or tallow from healthy animals not raised on antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, and other chemicals (also great for cooking)
  • unprocessed palm oil from a sustainable source – check with the manufacturer to be certain

Saturated fats are extremely important to our health. Read about the benefits of real fats in this post.

Only on occasion should you consume the following: organic or sustainable-produced non-GMO (genetically modified) oils that are cold-processed such as grapeseed, sunflower, safflower, and nut oils such as pumpkin seed, walnut, almond, and macadamia.  In many cases, it is becoming harder to find versions of these oils that are not genetically-modified, so use caution.

These oils are polyunsaturated and contain higher levels of Omega 6 essential fatty acids. While we do need small amounts of these in our diets, the Western diet typically contains a too-high ratio of Omega 6s to Omega 3s. Concentrate on getting the Omega 3 levels up and Omega 6 levels down. These oils should not be used in cooking, but eaten raw. The delicate composition of the polyunsaturated fats can become damaged and altered when heat is applied.

When you go shopping, remember the best foods are always whole, real foods. Oils such as canola, soybean, cottonseed and others are engineered foods that contribute to health problems when consumed such as heart disease, weight gain, high blood pressure, mal-absorption of nutrients, and other issues.

Trans fats are hidden in a variety of processed and fortified products. When in doubt, make foods from scratch – especially foods like salad dressings. You can mix your own oils at home with different types of vinegars, spices, fruits, salt, pepper, and garlic for fantastic flavor and health at the same cost as bottled dressings.

Suggested reading:

The Whole Soy Story by Kaayla T. Daniel, Ph.D, CCN

The Oiling of America – Sally Fallon Morell

Want more information on real, healthy, traditional fats?

The Importance of Dietary Fats

Do You Eat Butter or Margarine for Health?

2 Comments

  • Kelli
    December 2, 2010 - 4:17 PM | Permalink

    I always knew some oils were unhealthy and would never touch cottonseed-anything with a ten foot long poll as cotton is amongst one of the most genetically-modified crops. Usually I stick to eating sunflower oil as its the most affordable kind. I found this article very informative.

  • December 2, 2010 - 4:24 PM | Permalink

    Hi Kelli – thanks for your comments, I appreciate the others you have been making throughout the site as well. I hope you will pass it along to others who might also found it helpful! :)

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