Trans fats are banned, but can I still eat peanut butter?
It is official folks, Health Canada has implemented a BAN on artificial TRANS fats. But wtf does that mean? Let me explain it to you, and also answer a very important question...what about peanut butter, does it contain trans fats and can I still eat it?
As of September 17th, 2018 Health Canada has implemented a mandatory ban on trans-fats (with a 2 year phase-in plan). Particularly artificially produced trans-fats in the form of Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHO's). What is a trans fat? A Trans-fatty acid is type of fat that can be artificially produced via manufacturing through a process called hydrogenation OR can also be found naturally in some foods like dairy and ruminant meat products (beef, lamb, goat, bison). This ban, is referring to ARTIFICIALLY PRODUCED not natural sources. So these trans-fats are found in food products in the form of PHO's (partially hydrogenated oils, remember?). These PHO's have been added to Health Canada’s List of Contaminants and Other Adulterating Substances(sounds so scary!) and it is now illegal for restaurants, food manufactures, companies and imported goods to use this oil in their foods. Companies are given a 2 year period to meet these standards.
Why are we hating on them trans-fats anyways?
It is all about the impact these fats have on our health. Based on the most recent research and expert opinion, trans-fats, in the form of PHO's have been found to increase our bad cholesterol levels, and decrease our good cholesterol levels therefore, increasing our risk of cardiovascular disease, through plaque formation in them arteries!
Are you PHO Real?
PHO's are added to foods because they add taste and texture, and extend the shelf life of foods, making food producers very happy as it prevents food waste and creates a more "shelf stable" product. PHO's are used in in many processed foods, such as cookies, pastries, donuts, fried foods, snack foods and have been for many years, since the 20th century when it was created as a replacement for butter. PHO's are made during the manufacturing process in an attempt to increase the chemical stability of fat molecules, making them less susceptible to rancidity aka MORE SHELF STABLE! It is through this process called hydrogentation that PHO's are created, you cannot duplicate this hydrogentation process in your kitchen, so don't worry about making trans fats at home, this is a chemical process.
Hydrogenation is a chemical term meaning "to treat with hydrogen". Yay! science! Essentially this means taking an un-saturated fatty acid and adding hydrogen molecules to remove double bonds, making it a more stable type of oil. The problem with "partially hydrogenated oils" the PHO's is that they are in limbo...they started as a nice, good for you un-saturated fat, but this process of hydrogenation was not totally complete, leaving them in limbo as a trans fat...if you would complete the process and "fully hydrogenate" the oil, it would then turn into a saturated fat. Fully Hydrogenated oils (FHO’s) are excluded from the ban. FHO’s are defined as oils that have been hydrogenated.Once an oil has been fully hydrogenated, it is a saturated fat, not a trans fat.
What do I look for on labels?
When looking at the nutrition facts panel, you will see total fat, and subcategories of trans and saturated fats here, this will include natural and artificial trans fats. Also LOOK AT THE INGREDIENT LIST. To keep it simple, the words partially hydrogenated on a label = trans fat. On an ingredient list, the words hydrogenated oil does not mean trans fat, it means fully hydrogenated, and therefore a saturated fat.
WHAT. ABOUT. PEANUT. BUTTER?
Take a look at your favorite peanut butter or what you have in the cupboard at home. Here is what you may notice... Natural Peanut butter, the kind with oil separation, is exactly that it is NATURAL, no oil has been added to emulsify or stabilize the product. In our smooth, creamy peanut butters, you will notice some added ingredients, such as "hydrogenated vegetable oils", this is referring to the FHO's and does not mean trans fat, but rather saturated fat. So, peanut butter does not contain the trans fats, again, read the ingredient list. You will also notice that some of these peanut butters have sugar added to them...may be another reason you want to go the all natural route....?
BUT REMEMBER, it is all about moderation...no need to completely eliminate any one food item, just balance it out...which means eating peanut butter of any kinds straight from the jar, with a spoon, is a no-no....I guess I will have to take my own advice on this :)