by Dawn B. Olcott
Information on nutrition
and health selected from a variety of publications for your enjoyment
Trans-Fat: Your Body Thinks it's Saturated
The September 1996 Nutrition Action
Health Letter ran a comprehensive article on trans-fat entitled
"Trans: The Phantom Fat." Trans-fat has the same affect
on our blood vessels as saturated fat. It is created when oils or
shortening are hydro-genated. This process makes oil more solid
and adds to shelf life, so it is a useful process for the food industry.
On food labels trans-fat is included in the "total fat"
category, but it's not listed in the breakdown description of fats,
so it is easy to miss. Because it's not listed on food labels as
either a saturated, unsaturated, or monounsaturated fat, and due
to its effect on the body, Nutrition Action refers to trans-fat
as a "secret killer."
In a number of clinical trials, trans-fat raised
blood cholesterol about as high as saturated fat did. Current regulations
state that products can contain trans-fat and have a "no-cholesterol"
or "low-cholesterol" claim on the packaging. For example,
mar-garines containing trans-fat can make claims like "70 percent
less saturated fat than butter," but are not required to print
the percentage of trans-fat on the label. The Center for Science
in the Public Interest, which publishes Nutrition Action,
has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require
that trans-fat be included in the "saturated fat" percentage
on food labels, not just included in the "total fat" percentage.
This way consumers can make an informed choice about how much total
"artery-clogging-type" fat they want to purchase.
One of the ways to avoid trans-fat is to avoid
hydrogenated oils; however, there are many degrees of hydrogenation.
Items slightly hydrogenated may not be too bad, but there is no
way to tell the degree of hydrogenation by reading the label. Restaurant
food can be deceptive as well. A restaurant can claim their french
fries are cooked in cholesterol-free 100% vegetable oil, yet they
can cook them in partially-hydrogenated vegetable shorten-ing (as
opposed to unhydro-genated oil). According to the Nutrition Action
article, some of these fries are worse than potatoes cooked in beef
Meanwhile, until the labeling laws change,
here is how to avoid trans-fat:
Why Real Men
Eat Organic Foods
- Read food labels. Look for foods that contain
no "vegetable shorten-ing" or "partially hydrogenated"
- The less fat, the less trans-fat. Buy lower
fat margarines, chips, crackers, pastries, and other pro-cessed
foods. Avoid deep-fried foods.
- Use olive or canola oil instead of butter,
margarine, or shortening whenever possible.
- If you use margarine, buy tubs rather than
sticks. To cut fat and calories, get "light," "low-fat,"
or "fat-free" brands.
- Be aware that, foods that are labeled "cholesterol-free,"
"low-cholesterol," "low-saturated-fat," or
"made with vegetable oil" aren't necessarily low in
Men who consume organic foods have a higher sperm count than men with
mainstream diets. In a study comparing organic farmers with men working
for an airline, it was found that men whose diets contained at least
25 percent organic produce had 43 percent more sperm per milliliter
of semen than those eating a mainstream diet. This study contributes
to the speculation that pesticides may be the cause of a worldwide
drop in sperm counts. The average sperm count across the globe has
dropped by 50 percent over the last 50 years. (The June 29, 1996 issue
of Lancet magazine carried an article on the organic diet/sperm
Yogurt and other products with live cultures contain bacteria, such
as lactobacillus or acidopholus, which are beneficial
to the digestive tract. According to the October 1996 issue of the
Berkeley Wellness Letter, some of the good things bacteria
do for us are:
-They synthesize certain vitamins such as K,
B-12, folacin, and thiamin. (We also need to eat foods containing
these vitamins because we do not make enough for our needs.)
-They help keep the internal environment inhospitable
for harmful bacteria such as salmonella and other unwanted
-They may play a role in neutralizing potential
carcinogens and preventing cancer.
-They may stimulate the immune system.
Olcott is Harvest's Education and Marketing Specialist.