Even With the Trans Fats Ban, Fast Food and Junk Food are Still Unhealthy

The FDA recently ordered a ban on trans fats because they are “generally not recognized as safe.” It’s been a long time coming considering that they cause what the Mayo Clinic calls “a cholesterol double whammy,” raising LDL or bad cholesterol and lowering HDL or good cholesterol. But even with the ban, it’s important to understand that the foods that contain trans fat are still for the most part, unhealthy.

“It’s important to remember that just because processed foods will no longer have trans fats, doesn’t necessarily make those foods healthy,” Ursula Ridens, a registered dietitian who is affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital said to The San Diego Union-Tribune. “They could still be high in saturated fat, sodium, or sugar. It’s all about balance and choosing processed foods less often.”

Read more about reasons processed foods are killing you

Trans fats are often found in baked goods, chips, microwave popcorn, doughnuts, fried chicken, refrigerated dough, creamer, and margarine. While some meat and dairy naturally contain trans fats, the majority of it is made through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, causing it to become a solid at room temperature. The fats were added to processed foods because they’re inexpensive and increase the shelf life of foods. But now food companies are transitioning out of using trans fats because of health concerns.

Though junk food will be slightly better because it doesn’t contain the fats, it still contains saturated fats, found in meat, poultry, dairy, butter, and cream. Saturated fats raise the cholesterol level in your blood and foods that are high in saturated fats are usually high in calories as well. It’s not that all fats are bad news. Good fats -- found in olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and peanut butter -- are good for heart health and when they replace excessive carbohydrates for calories, they increase insulin sensitivity.

Processed foods also commonly contain too much sodium, which is problematic because sodium can increase blood pressure in some people, putting extra burden on the heart. Not to mention all the sugar, which can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity.

The bottom line is that saying goodbye to trans fat is a good thing, but it’s in no way an invitation to eat fast food or junk food.

Read more about how trans fat robs memory and makes you irritable

[Editor's Note: If you want to learn more about trans fats, click here to sign up for Naturally Savvy’s Trans Fats Get Healthy Challenge.]

Image via rpavich

By Sara Novak| August 11, 2015
Categories:  Eat

About the Author

Sara Novak

Sara Novak

Sara Novak specializes in health and food policy writing for Discovery Health. Her work has also been featured on TreeHugger, HowStuffWorks.com, TLC Cooking, and Animal Planet. After graduating from the Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia, Sara headed up the communication efforts for a national scholarship program in Washington, D.C. Sara has also handled copy writing and public relations for a global environmental consulting firm. She loves fiddling with healthful recipes, traveling, and exploring life atop her yoga mat. Today, Sara lives in Charleston with her husband and two lovable cocker spaniels, Madison and Bella.

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