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Detecting Hidden Trans Fats

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. None of the information on this site is intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. All information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and are not intended to replace the advice of a medical doctor. Stacy Mal is not a doctor and does not give medical advice, prescribe medication, or diagnose illness. Stacy is a certified health coach, journalist, and independent Plexus ambassador. These are her personal beliefs and are not the beliefs of Plexus Worldwide or any other named professional. If you have a medical condition or health concern, it is advised that you see your physician immediately. It is also recommended that you consult your doctor before implementing any new health strategy or taking any new supplements. Results may vary.

Excerpt taken from Rebuilding Your Temple: Blueprints for True and Lasting Health by Stacy Mal

In most cases, all three types of fatty acids (saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated) are present at the same time in naturally fatty food. Like a multi-stringed necklace, these fatty acid chains are attached to a bar-like structure, called a glycerol molecule. This is where you get the term triglycerides. “Tri” means three fatty acids; and “glycerides” means on one glycerol molecule.

They are classified differently, though, based on their makeup. Whichever fatty acid is most abundant determines its name. Take olive oil, for example. It’s a triglyceride, meaning it has all three fatty acids. But it’s comprised of approximately 72% monounsaturated, 12% polyunsaturated, and 16% saturated fatty acids. Therefore, it’s classified as a monounsaturated fat because that is what is most abundant.

Now, there are also what’s called diglycerides and monoglycerides. As the name implies, these fats have only one or two chains of fatty acids, instead of three. These start as a triglyceride that is then synthesized via catalytic transesterification—a big word that basically means it is processed. The result is an oil byproduct that contains, yep, you guessed it: trans fat.

The problem is these mono- and di-glycerides are used as emulsifiers (ingredients that help water and oil bind together better in recipes). Because of this, they do not fall under “trans fat” labeling requirements, because they aren’t classified as fats. They’re classified as emulsifiers.

Also, companies are allowed to list trans fats as “0” if the foods contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. So, many packaged foods that list “0” trans fats on their nutrition labels actually do contain these artificial fats. (Some even list trans-fatty acids or mono- and diglycerides right there in fine print in the ingredients list.)

The problem is two-fold. One, to make the numbers equal less than .5 grams, they typically make the serving size unreasonably small. So, you end up eating far more than .5 grams because you eat far more than what they consider to be one serving. Two, if many food manufacturers are doing this, and you’re eating several different processed foods each day, then accumulatively you’re not just eating “small amounts” of trans fat anymore.

The same is true for interesterified fats. Companies do not need to list it on the label. Instead, they might use terms like “high stearate” or “stearic rich fats” in the ingredients list, which are code words for interesterified fat. What’s even worse, some oils like palm oil, palm kernel oil, vegetable oil, and fully hydrogenated vegetable oil do not even need to list code names. They can be listed as is and still potentially contain interesterified or trans fat.

This is another reason why it’s important to pay very close attention to what kind of fat you are consuming. Not only do you have to look at the grams of fat in the nutrition label—and whether it’s polyunsaturated, saturated, monounsaturated or trans—but you also have to look at the ingredients list below it. You need to read every ingredient like a detective.

If you see a vegetable, palm, soybean, or canola oil listed, chances are it could have trans or interesterified fat. If you see anything with the below words, it almost certainly does. Put it back on the shelves.




Partially Hydrogenated


Stearic Acid

Trans Fat

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