Thursday, June 18, 2015

A cardiac arrest for trans fats


Trans fats are to me what vaccines are to Jenny McCarthy, except I'm not completely wrong.

For about six years now, I've been a trans fat hyper-vigilante. When I learned about trans fats and their effect on the human body —

To sum up: They lower your good cholesterol and jack up the bad, unlike all other fats; they are most directly tied to arterial buildup and coronary disease; though they occur naturally in trace amounts in red meats, a different (and dangerous) strain is created artificially through partial hydrogenation, mostly for the purpose of longer shelf life; they were considered a safe alternative to saturated fat for decades; they have only graced nutrition labels since 2006, and even now, a product can have up to 0.4 grams of trans fat per serving and still be marked 0g.

— I immediately gave up many of my favorite foods, and sought out alternatives where possible. It's been nearly six years since I've bought any food item with measurable trans fat. To this day, I continue to cut food items from my list, trying ever so harder to eradicate this manmade menace from  my diet. It's nearly impossible to avoid it altogether, especially when eating home cooking or restaurant food, but I do the best that I can.

What's interesting to me is how little most people still know about trans fats. They're literally the worst things in our food, and even many educated and health-conscious people don't give them a second look. 

Others are aware of them but don't care. Among that group are many people who boo-hoo this coming near-ban as nanny-statism. Let people have a choice, they say, as if everyone is fully educated on the matter and has a non-trans alternative for everything they consume.

The way I see it, a move such is this is what what our government does best: Protect us from health hazards when individual action is insufficient. Again, artificial trans fats were invented mainly to extend shelf life. It's a cost-cutting measure. But given that coronary disease is America's greatest killer by far, it's not exactly saving taxpayers money. And trans fats aren't exactly indispensable either — healthier alternatives exist to get virtually the same flavors and textures.

I like eating in California whenever I can (I live close to the state line) because the state banned restaurants from cooking with trans-laden oils years ago. I'm less afraid to indulge there. As far as flavor goes, some of my favorite entrees are at my usual California stops.

When I first moved to Nevada two years ago, my mom and I stopped at a fast-food place. I picked up a nutrition guide and noticed something incredible: their breakfast sausage biscuit had 6 grams (!!) of trans fat — in Nevada. In California, roughly nine miles away, the same biscuit at the same restaurant had 0 grams. I doubt most people would have noticed that; just a few years ago, I wouldn't have either. I wonder how many people would feel the same way if they knew more.

So I'm grateful for this move. Maybe I'll even start eating cake frosting again. Yum.

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