Trans fats are manmade fats that are used in processed foods. They are modified vegetable-derived fats that may be even worse than animal-derived saturated fats. They are called trans fat or hydrogenated oils, and they are laboratory-designed to have a similar chemical structure as saturated fat. They are solid at room temperature and have adverse health consequences. Like saturated fats, they promote heart disease and cancer.
When you are reading food labels and you see the words “partially hydrogenated” on the box, it is another way of saying trans fat, so avoid it. If you avoid processed food, it is easy to avoid trans fat. These harmful fats are found in crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen foods, and snacks. Most enticing desserts and fried foods contain trans fat, even if they contain no animal products and no cholesterol. Even natural, microwavable popcorn contains trans fats.
In addition to trans fats, the baking of grains and potatoes performed on many processed foods causes browning of the food and the formation of a hard crust, which is rich in acrylamides. In the last five years there has been worldwide alarm in the scientific community after researchers have found that many of the foods we eat contain these cancer-causing compounds. Acrylamides form in foods that are browned by being fried, baked, roasted, grilled, or barbequed, but not in those that are steamed, boiled or sautéed in water. Water-based cooking prevents the browning or burning that forms these harmful compounds. Frying and overcooking lead to the highest levels of acrylamides, the highest of which are found in fried chips, such as potato chips, French fries, and sugar-coated breakfast cereals.
Even though these chemicals have been shown to be potent carcinogens in animal models, so many acrylamides are consumed in the modern world that good research documenting the extent of the cancer risk in humans does not yet exist. This topic is still being actively investigated in many different countries, but the risk is difficult to estimate because baked, browned, and fried foods are so ubiquitous in Western diets.
European governments permit far less acrylamides in packaged foods than the U.S. and, they have been advising food manufacturers to reduce them. Cereals and processed foods manufactured in the United States are not under such restraints and have much higher acrlyamide levels. Since the same browned and hard-baked products are rich sources of the Advanced Glycation End Products previously discussed, there are plenty of reasons to minimize or avoid these foods in your diet.
This is an excerpt from Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat For Health.