Wednesday, August 6, 2014



       "A century ago, food chemists discovered that they could solidify a polyunsaturated vegetable oil by heating it in the presence of hydrogen and finely ground particles of nickel metal.  During the process, called partial hydrogenation, hydrogen latches on to some - but not all - of the double-bonded carbons, changing them into single bonds.  At the same time, some of the remaining double bonds twist into a new straightened shape, which gives the fat new chemical and physical properties.
       "Why did anyone bother figuring this out?  It's easier to ship and store solidified vegetable oils than liquid oils.  Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil can be used in place of butter or lard (solid animal fats) in baking.  And a lesser degree of hydrogenation yields a still-liquid oil that doesn't become rancid as quickly as unprocessed vegetable oils.  Without this process we wouldn't have had margarine or vegetable shortenings such as Crisco.  We also would have less heart disease."  
--- Walter C. Willett, M.D., from Eat, Drink and Be Healthy (co-developed with The Harvard School of Public Health) 

How do we bring healthy foods into the lives of all of America’s children?  When I first started honing in on trans fats (what I call “the evil empire fat”), it became very clear to me that I wanted no part of trans fats in my food.  With many of my aunts and uncles on my father’s side of the family having lived and died with cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks, hardening of the arteries, high cholesterol, and strokes, my Heinrich cousins and I have all been motivated to learn how to reverse the trend of heart disease in our generation. 

When trans fats first started rearing their ugly heads in our food supply, I started reading labels looking to see which manufacturers were sneaking them in under the (legal) radar.  I learned to scan the ingredients section for any ingredient that included the words “partially hydrogenated” which is code for trans fat.  Very sneaky!

What are trans fats?  They are good fats that are changed by a chemical process from a liquid (good) fat to a solid (bad) fat.  They become “hydrogenated” or solidified.  The process of hydrogenation adds hydrogen to good fats to increase shelf life and flavor stability. Trans fats also do 4 very bad things that make us sick:
  • they raise our LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • lower our HDL (good) cholesterol
  • raise our trigylerides (another bad fat like LDL cholesterol) and
  • promote inflammation (a very bad thing which lights the fire of many disease processes in the body)

Image result for picture of stick margarine                     Image result for picture of frosting
Watch out for these five foods that are made with trans fats:
  1. Ready-to-eat frostings
  2. Cookies, cakes, frozen pies
  3. Stick margarines
  4. Refrigerated dough products like cinnamon rolls and biscuits
  5. Coffee creamers

Follow one of the rules for Growing Healthy Kids:  READ FOOD LABELS TO IDENTIFY TRANS FATS AND CHOOSE FOODS WITHOUT TRANS FATS ("partially hydrogenated"). 

The fact is that the Food and Drug Administration has finally decided that there is no safe level of trans fats.  I could have told them that a long time ago! 

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids