Food and Drink 

Transition from trans fats

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If, like me, you’re trying to eat healthily, then we both likely have to ’fess up. Our efforts can be, well, ambivalent, to put it gently.

Catch me in a “clean food” mood and I won’t want to even share the same table with any fats, including good ones like olive oil. The same can go for sugar, with the exception, maybe, of some really good dark chocolate or a piece of Dutch licorice or three. Then, whoops, before you know it, there’s that ambivalence creeping around again.

So let’s get real. If you like to sneak in a few good french fries once in a while or a nice little slice of, say, Key lime pie, you’ll likely be as glad as I was to learn that the Chateau Whistler — in fact, all the Fairmont hotels — have joined the city of New York and other health-minded groups that are going trans fat-free.

Friday, the Fairmont will switch from trans fat-based cooking oils, limiting trans fat content to 0.2 grams per serving. All other products, such as pastries and desserts, will be limited to a trans fat content of 0.5 grams per serving by May 1.

To be clear, the Fairmont initiative is aimed at artificial trans fats, not the natural ones found in meat and dairy products. But just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it’s good.

All trans fats clog our arteries by raising bad cholesterol and lowering healthy cholesterol, ultimately putting us at greater risk for heart disease. Trans fat is also linked to type II diabetes, breast cancer and, according to a new Harvard study, infertility in women (see below).

But it’s artificial trans fat — the stuff that comes from hydrogenating, or adding hydrogen to vegetable oils — that’s the real monster, whether it’s fully or even partially hydrogenated.

About 95 per cent of all trans fats the average person eats comes from artificial sources in the form of margarine, fried foods (including fast foods), doughnuts pastries, packaged snacks — in fact just about any processed food you eat will likely contain trans fat. Why?

Hydrogenating vegetable oil turns it opaque and semi-solid. More importantly, it adds volume, meaning manufacturers make more money from the same amount of oil. Plus it extends products’ shelf life, meaning those commercial cookies, cereals, sauces, bad little doughnuts, whatever, can be packaged, shipped, warehoused and finally sold to you weeks and weeks after processing and they will still seem fresh — “seem” being the operative word here.

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