Although damage to arteries and blood vessels cannot be reversed, exercising regularly will reduce further damage by reducing LDL and increasing HDL cholesterol. The less LDL in the bloodstream, the less there is available to trigger or promote the artery-clogging process known as atherosclerosis.
Foods low in saturated fat (lipids that are solid at room temperature, such as meat fat) and trans-fat or hydrogenated fat (liquid fat, such as vegetable oil, that has been artificially converted to have the properties of saturated fats) should be avoided because they are clinically proven to increase LDL cholesterol and lower HDL.
Some foods such as beef and cheese contain small amounts of trans-fat. This does not mean it has been artificially produced, since some foods naturally contain small amounts. However, unlike hydrogenated trans-fat, natural trans-fat is metabolized similarly to saturated fats. Therefore, although the consumption of trans-fat should be avoided entirely, it is generally safer to eat the natural form, as opposed to the hydrogenated form. Next time you go out to purchase a jug of vegetable cooking oil, make sure it contains absolutely no trans-fat. If it does, you know that it has been hydrogenated (artificially produced) because no vegetable on earth has the capability of producing trans-fat. The same rule applies to pastries and snacks, such as chips, chocolate, or anything prepared in oil or contains oil but does not contain meat or dairy products.
Case Study: Trans fat and Food Labels
Assume you want to buy a prepackaged microwavable meal. As shown on the box, the meal contains grilled chicken and vegetables, and is advertised as low in fat. You examine the nutrition label and discover that it contains 0.5 grams of trans fat, except that ‘hydrogenated oil’ is not listed as an ingredient on the ingredients list. If the product really contained only grilled chicken and vegetables, it would be free of trans fat, because only beef products, not chicken products, have the possibility of containing trans fat. Thus, it is likely that either the chicken or vegetables (or both) were marinated with hydrogenated oil prior to being cooked, and since the package is advertised as being low in fat (targeting consumers mainly on diets), the company was reluctant to mention this fact on the package.
As a consumer, this form of dishonesty should not be tolerated. If anything, it should perpetuate the impression that the company is presently cheating on labels of its other products as well. Unfortunately, in the United States and Canada, if a product contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, companies have a right to declare it as being ‘trans fat-free.’ Any products that fails to mention what type of vegetable oil used should be avoided – this is a recent trend being used on the labels of fried foods such as chips, including some top-selling snack-food brands like Doritos and Lays, as a way to avoid telling its consumers whether it contains pure (i.e. canola oil) or hydrogenated oils. Since most Doritos brand flavours contain some type of cheese (predominantly cheddar), being labeled as trans fat-free is arguably a misnomer.
Drinks like POM Wonderful, which are made from pomegranates, contains high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants, as the name implies, neutralize chemicals in the bloodstream that cause oxidation to occur. Oxidants are highly reactive chemicals and can cause inflammation and sickness if antioxidants are not present. Although the body does synthesize its own antioxidants such as glutathione, antioxidants obtained from one’s diet are still required to maintain a healthy body. Antioxidants, however, cannot be stored in the body, but can be recycled. Therefore, drinking one bottle of POM Wonderful a year will not protect you from the dangers of oxidants on a daily basis.
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