Many people find nutrition labels confusing and hard to understand. Complex language and complicated chemical names can make it hard to pinpoint the types of foods you should be avoiding in order to stay healthy. However, there are a few easily avoidable ingredients to improve the health of your heart. One of them is partially hydrogenated oil (also known as trans fats), a substance that is similar to candle wax where vegetable oil is heated and combined with nickel particles.
Sounds delish, doesn't it?
It shouldn't. These oils are one of the major culprits that contribute to heart disease. A diet with trans fat is known to increase the risk of heart disease by 47%, in addition to lowering your HDL (the good cholesterol!) significantly. Add this to increased risk for Alzheimer's, diabetes, and cancer and you can see why trans fat is a good thing to avoid. But where can you start? A few good places include:
- Grocery shopping. This is the easiest place to start, because you have the time to look at nutrition labels and check for ingredients. If the words "partially hydrogenated oil" appear on the list, put it back.
- Look up nutritional information on dishes available at your favorite restaurants. A recent trend has been for restaurants to include the nutritional information right on the menu, but even for ones that don't, almost every chain has a website set up to provide the facts and ingredients of all the options on their menu. Utilize these resources to the max!
Sometimes hydrogenated oil isn't listed specifically on the nutritional information because it is included in another ingredient. Some ingredients to look for that include high amounts of hydrogenated oil and trans fat are margarines, vegetable shortening, and processed substances.
Other foods well-known for their high levels of hydrogenated oils include instant noodles (such as Ramen), anything with large amounts of butter or margarine, frozen food, and cake mixes. All of these can derail your plan for healthier living, and should be avoided! Keeping trans fat in mind, you can do your heart (and overall health) a favor by staying away from hydrogenated oils.
Source: Willet, W. "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating." 2001
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