When it comes to making healthy food choices, there are so many foods that we know are good for us: Fruits, veggies, whole grains, etc. But let’s be real—when it comes to what taste the best, you’re either going to go for something sickly sweet or salty and greasy. If you’re a dessert person, some of the best indulgences are baked goods. But these foods (especially any that are premade) often contain one of the worst ingredients that men can eat: partially hydrogenated oils, aka trans fats.
“Trans fats do not have any health benefits,” says Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition. “Foods that have trans fats are luckily dwindling out of our food supply thanks to government action and consumer demand, but they still lurk in our food supply in some oils, shortening, coffee creamers, and restaurant foods.”
Trans fats still exist and tend to be a common component of baked goods in the form of frozen pastry dough, unfortunately making it the food men should never eat.
“Frozen pastry products often contain partially hydrogenated oils, which are a source of trans fat,” says Alex Aldeborgh, MS, RDN, registered dietitian and founder of daisybeet in Boston. The partially hydrogenated oils come from vegetable shortening or margarine, which are typically used in premade pastry doughs.
While the convenience of a frozen pastry dough saves you time in baking desserts like pie or other filled pastries, there are some health precautions to consider—especially for men.
Why are trans fats bad?
While some trans fats are naturally occurring, they aren’t the types of trans fats to worry about.
“Trans fats appear in nature in some animal products in tiny amounts, though they may not be harmful in these natural states,” adds Auslander Moreno.
However, this is different than artificial trans fat, which is harmful to heart health. Because heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in America, eating artificial trans fat can create a negative impact.
“Trans fats increase the risk of cardiovascular disease because they raise “bad” LDL cholesterol and lower “good” HDL cholesterol,” says Aldeborgh. “A diet that regularly includes trans fats increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.”
One study done on the effects of trans fat on heart health over 10 years found that people who ate more trans fat were 28% more likely to die from heart disease, and 21% more likely to develop heart disease than people who ate less trans fats.
While artificial trans fat wasn’t seen as an issue in the past, the FDA recently deemed artificial trans fats no longer ‘generally recognized as safe’ in 2015. They placed a ban on artificial trans fats in June 2018 because of their correlation to heart disease.
This particular ban did cause products, like frozen premade pastry dough, to make some changes to their ingredient list. However, even though the ban went into effect, food manufactured before that date can still be sold through Jan. 1, 2020. This means that some frozen pastry dough being sold could potentially still have a higher count of partially hydrogenated oils.
How can you cut out trans fat?
While some pastry doughs have made the switch to not use ingredients with partially hydrogenated oils, there’s still no guarantee that these premade pastry doughs are safe of artificial trans fat. The obvious solution to avoid eating trans fat is to avoid premade doughs and just make them from scratch.
“Bake from scratch, so you know exactly what is going into your food,” says Aldeborgh. This healthy southern-style biscuit recipe could get you started.
RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.
Aldeborgh also mentions the importance of checking ingredients listed on nutrition labels before eating anything.
“It’s a good idea to always check the labels, because if a food has partially hydrogenated oils, it has trans fat,” says Aldeborgh.
While frozen pastry dough isn’t the only place that partially hydrogenated oils are found, it is good in general to cut down on processed foods if you want to minimize any intake of trans fats. The easiest ways to do it are to pay attention to food labels and try to eat out less.
“Cutting out trans fats is rather easy since it basically only appears in processed foods and fried foods,” says Moreno. “Cooking more at home and being stringent about reading labels for anything with the word ‘hydrogenated’ can spare you. Look for foods with the simplest ingredients that make sense. Should oil be in a coffee creamer? No. You know what should be in a coffee creamer? Cream. Cook with unsaturated oils with anti-inflammatory fats, like olive oil and avocado oil.”