The Official Trans Fat Ban!

Food/Health History Update:

Mark your calendars everyone because tomorrow is a very important day in United States nutrition history… Partially hydrogenated oils (also known as trans fats) will officially be illegal and will no longer be found in any food products sold in the United States.

Reminder- trans fats are a type of fat found in chemically produced partially hydrogenated oils, that, even in very small amounts, are responsible for raising cholesterol levels through the roof and increasing risk for heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. Frozen pizzas, solid margarines, frosting, packaged cookies and crackers, and fried foods like onion rings and fries are just some of the common foods where trans fats can be found.

Back in 2015, the FDA finally realized that trans fats were no longer safe for people to eat and removed them from the GRAS (“Generally Recognized as Safe”) list of ingredients. The FDA gave companies until June 18, 2018 (tomorrow!) to have them eliminated from all products. (See my post back in 2016 all about the ban.)

Now, the world is following suit (hopefully!). On May 14, 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched an initiative to eliminate trans fats globally. While many westernized countries have already eliminated trans fats or are in the process of doing so, countries in southern Asia, Oceana, and Central/South America are still consuming dangerously high amounts of these processed fats. WHO can’t actually create any worldwide law or ban, but it will be part of their strategic plan to help countries around the world achieve a trans fat-free food supply. And guess what (this blew my mind)…WHO has never called to completely eliminate anything other than a specific disease! – Shows you just how bad trans fats are!

Happy Father’s Day!

 

*Note- unfortunately the FDA has extended the June 18, 2018 deadline for trans fat removal under some conditions, but for the most part, they will all be eliminated. Read more here: https://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/FoodAdditivesIngredients/ucm449162.htm

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Are egg yolks bad for you?

It is no secret that egg yolks are packed full of cholesterol (I think they win the gold medal for cholesterol content and are typically the number one source of cholesterol in our diets). People commonly opt for egg white omelets or low cholesterol egg substitutes to cut back on their cholesterol intake.

What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance both in food (like egg yolks) and made by your liver, which is needed by all of your body’s cells in order to function. In other words, without cholesterol, we wouldn’t be able to survive.

Cholesterol Recommendations
In the 1960’s, American Heart Association, along with many other health organizations, recommended limiting cholesterol intake after researchers found high blood cholesterol levels were linked to heart disease. The typical recommendation was no more than 3 egg yolks per week.

But wait! Researchers are rethinking their “low cholesterol” recommendations. High blood cholesterol levels are still liked to heart disease, but we aren’t so sure that eating cholesterol really increases cholesterol levels in the blood. I know that seems illogical, but our liver actually produces way more cholesterol than we eat, so cutting back on your egg intake won’t really affect your cholesterol levels.

Don’t worry, I’m not just spewing science here… the U.S. government agrees and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (published every 5 years by the USDA) eliminated the recommendation of limiting cholesterol in 2015.

Dietary Fat
While monitoring your cholesterol intake can be a thing of the past, you should keep saturated and trans fat on your radar. Newer research is showing that these two types of fat play a much more significant role in increasing blood cholesterol levels and heart disease risk compared to dietary cholesterol.

So when it comes to eggs, there is no need to trash the yolk. The yolk won’t increase your cholesterol levels, and it is full of healthy vitamins and minerals! Plus, eating whole eggs has been found to keep you more full, promote weight loss, protect brain health, and decrease inflammation.

Don’t Forget…
Diet isn’t the only thing that affects heart disease risk. High levels of inflammation, stress oxidative damage, along with high blood pressure, smoking, and low physical activity levels can all increase your risk, too.

Coconut Oil

This week’s topic brought to you from the family dinner table last weekend.

It seems like coconut oil is everyone’s favorite oil right now. It is encouraged by the recently popular clean eating, paleo, and ketogenic diets. Why is it so popular? There may be some great health benefits of coconut oil, but there are still some fuzzy areas that need more research. When asked, most coconut oil users can’t tell you why they use it or why they think it is healthy, so I thought I would share some insight.

Cholesterol

There are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fat is considered the bad kind of fat which increases our LDL (bad) cholesterol. Unsaturated fat is known as the good or healthy kind of fat, which can decrease LDL cholesterol. Both saturated and unsaturated fats can boost your HDL (good) cholesterol a tiny bit, too.

Coconut oil is 90% saturated fat (which is more than the 65% saturated fat in butter!). Therefore, coconut oil, just like other saturated fats, increase that bad LDL cholesterol (not good!). However, coconut oil is unique in that it seems to give your HDL a little extra boost compared to all other fats.

This is where it gets confusing. Right now, when you go to the doctor, they test your blood for the amount of LDL particles and the amount of HDL particles in your blood, but they don’t look at the size of those particles. There has been some new research showing that the size of these cholesterol particles might be a more accurate measure of heart disease risk rather than the number of particles.

Here is where coconut oil comes in…while coconut oil increases the number of LDL particles (just like other saturated fats), it might increase the size of these particles, which could mean good news for your heart disease risk (the bigger the better!). But remember, this is still new research and we don’t consider this 100% fact yet.

MCTs

Then there are the infamous MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) that coconut oil is known for. MCTs don’t need to be digested the same way as other fats and are a readily available energy source for your cells. For this reason, they have historically been used as a therapeutic agent in people with fat malabsorption, cystic fibrosis, and epilepsy.

Most fat digestion requires the fats you eat to be transported to the liver via triglycerides in order to be used, but because MCTs don’t go through the normal digestion process, there are some studies showing they can decrease triglycerides and aid in weight loss. MCTs also have some anti-inflammatory properties, which is also good news from a health perspective.

Conclusions

While all of this sound great, I would still be a little skeptical. Much of this is just preliminary research, there are few research studies, and the results are inconclusive. So while coconut oil is fine every now and again, choosing oils high in unsaturated fats, like olive, sunflower, and avocado oils, are definitely the best choice as far as we know.

Decoding Dietary Fat

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 9.58.41 PMEver look at a nutrition facts label and have no clue what it means? Is trans fat going to kill you? Should you avoid saturated fat? Which is better: polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats? It can be confusing, but I’ve got you covered. Get ready for a crash course on fats.

Some background:

There are four different types of fat: trans fat, saturated fat, monounsaturated fat (MUFA), and polyunsaturated fat (PUFA).

The main factor that determines “good” vs. “bad” fats is their contribution to the development of cardio vascular disease (CVD). Cardiovascular disease can develop as a result of various things, but the most common is cholesterol build up in the arteries. The two main types of cholesterol carriers that influence cholesterol levels are HDL and LDL. HDL is usually called the “good” carriers that removes cholesterol from the body and brings it to the liver. LDL does the reverse; it takes cholesterol out of the liver and circulates it throughout the body where it can get trapped in the artery walls.

When LDL cholesterol gets trapped in the artery walls, inflammation and hard plaques can develop. This inflammation makes it difficult for blood to move and plaques can break off and block arteries leading to a heart attack.

How Do Fats Impact Cholesterol?

Trans Fat: Trans fat is the worst type of fat. When trans fats are consumed, your LDL levels increase and your HDL levels decrease. That means a huge increase in CVD risk. Compared to a person who eats absolutely no trans fat, a person who gets 2% of their calories from trans fat has at 23% greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease!

Saturated Fat: Saturated Fats increase HDL and LDL cholesterol. That means they aren’t the best, but they aren’t nearly as bad as trans fats.

Monounsaturated Fat: Monounsaturated fats have not been found to have a huge link to cardiovascular disease. Some studies have shown that they decrease risk, but most studies show that they do not impact CVD risk at all. Though, they do have some connection to increasing LDL particle size. This is a good thing because when LDL particles are bigger, it is less likely they will get trapped in the arteries.

Polyunsaturated Fat: Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) come in two forms: omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-3 PUFAs have anti-inflammatory effects, can decrease LDL cholesterol, and increase LDL particle size- all good things. Omega-6 PUFAs, on the other hand, are pro-inflammatory and can cause blood vessels to narrow making it harder for blood to circulate. It gets complicated because both omega-3 and 6 are required for survival. Therefore, it is important to eat both, but omega-3 should be eaten in slightly larger quantities.

So which ones should I eat??

Increase omega-3 polyunsaturated fat intake. These are going to have the greatest impact on cardiovascular disease risk. Just 250mg/day of fish high in omega 3 can decrease your CVD risk by 36%!
Sources: flaxseed, salmon, and fresh tuna.

Watch your omega-6 polyunsaturated fat intake. These are still an essential part of the diet and are needed for survival. In fact, they are required to prevent learning deficits, skin lesions, and impaired vision, but swapping some omega-6 for omeg-3 every now and then will decrease your risk of CVD.
Sources: nuts/seeds, vegetable oils, and many processed foods.

Don’t worry about monounsaturated fats. Keep eating these guys with no worries. It might be a good idea to swap saturated fats (like butter) for some MUFAs (like olive oil) when you are cooking.
Sources: olive oil, avocados, and nuts/seeds.

Consume saturated fat in moderation; a little bit won’t kill you.
Sources: cheese, butter, whole milk, and red meats.

Avoid trans fat at all costs. Keep trans fat consumption as low as possible (absolutely none is ideal) and chose any other type of fat before eating trans fat.
Sources: fried food, margarine, non-dairy creamers, and processed cookies and crackers.

Don’t forget, eating fat won’t necessarily make you fat. Fat is essential for the body to function so it is important to consume enough (20-35% of your calories should come from fat each day).