Trans Fat in Your House Baked Delights – Well being and Life-style
By Gelyka Dumaraos
Your lockdown cravings may feed your food satisfaction for a while – but are they safe in the long run?
The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak spawned hundreds of online food businesses. Homemade goodies fill every social media feed – they all look so delicious it is easy to trick you into placing an order right away. From baked sushi to Eube Cheese Pan de Sal to Korean-inspired minimalist cakes, sticky biscuits, moist chocolate desserts, cheesecake and even donuts in a variety of flavors. With many staying at home and adapting to remote working, all food businesses went digital to reach the public. Indeed, with just a few taps of your finger, these trending quarantine foods are getting easier and more accessible.
But these delicious, mostly baked goodies also come with a threat.
These may contain trans fats, an unhealthy ingredient found primarily in baked goods and fast food products. When consumed in large quantities, they may not only provide your much-needed satisfaction. It can also pose alarming health risks in the long run.
Threat to the heart
Trans fats are an industrially manufactured type of dietary fat that is made solid through hydrogenation.
According to Dr. Ranulfo B. Javelosa, Jr., a cardiologist at the Philippine Heart Center, eating foods high in trans fats may increase the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and decrease the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol. Trans fats cause inflammation, which is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke – the world’s leading killers. The World Health Organization (WHO) names cardiovascular disease as one of the world’s deadly killers, with 31 percent of deaths worldwide. This corresponds to 17.7 million deaths per year.
If trans fat consumption is accompanied by a sedentary lifestyle, overweight and obesity, vices like smoking, and drinking too much alcohol, there is a higher risk of heart problems in the future.
Trans fats are also linked to chronic conditions like diabetes as they contribute to insulin resistance, which increases the risk of developing the disease.
The Philippine Heart Association urges everyone to keep their heart healthy by avoiding junk food and fast food because they contain large amounts of trans fat, which clogs important blood vessels and leads to cardiac arrest.
Even if trans fats have been shown to pose health risks to the heart, many foods contain them.
With the current pandemic, there are many food companies offering desserts and snacks on social media. Some are new owners trying out their newfound baking and cooking talent during quarantine, while others are from traditional companies that have adapted social media marketing to reach a wider market.
Cebu-based baker Baby Camarillo described trans fats as an unhealthy ingredient when he was the new owner of a bakery. That’s why she makes sure that they don’t use ingredients that contain trans fats. What they use are substitutes – butter and saturated vegetable fats, including coconut oils.
As someone who has sold baked goods online, she says bakers would know what’s healthy made from unhealthy ingredients when they start baking.
She says, “It’s only when you start baking that you see the unhealthy ingredients that you have.”
Part of it is knowing the risks of trans fats which she doesn’t use in her business. Given her family’s history with diabetes and heart disease, Camarillo is looking for ways to take advantage of healthier options. She’s baked with stevia and erythritol to sweeten her wares and sometimes mixed coconut flour to replace some of the grains. She also uses butter and coconut oil for baking and cooking. “I do this to take care of my family and to help the people with diabetes and heart disease, like my siblings and friends.”
This also applies to traditional bakeries like the 81-year-old Kamuning Bakery Café in Quezon City, which has also been using butter and lard since 1939. According to owner Wilson Lee Flores, the café has long been offering healthy baked goods to its customers and adhering to old-fashioned and artisanal baking traditions. While some people might not understand the benefits of their healthy products and their higher prices compared to others, more customers appreciate them now, according to Flores.
For Camarillo, she admits that not many understand the bad effects of trans fats, despite only sticking to baking healthy goods. “As expected, many people are unaware of the negative effects of trans fats and even too much sugar. They only care about the taste. “The cost of running the business can also be impacted by choosing a healthier path. Camarillo says she gets good feedback, but the problem is that she can’t sell her goods at the right price and only gets a small premium.
Flores understands that the use of natural unsaturated liquid vegetable oils such as olive, canola, corn or soybean oils have a shorter shelf life (as opposed to those mass-produced in food factories) and therefore not in supermarkets can be sold. This is not a problem for Flores. “Although Kamuning Bakery Café foods have a shorter shelf life, we want our customers to live longer and healthier lives,” he says.
“Mission to the Commission”
For Flores, health and wellness were a global trend and above all a personal belief. That’s why he says her bakery continues to value healthier products. Continuous research and improvement of their products is an additional service for their enthusiastic customers, he says.
It also helps to know where the ingredients are from. Kamuning Bakery Café sources its ingredients in premium local mills with high quality flour and sources its eggs, fruits and other ingredients from local farms and suppliers with a satisfactory track record. Camarillo also sources its ingredients from online stores that sell baking ingredients from premium and trusted brands.
“I suggest that we all try to deliberately put in a little more effort, research, invest more resources and attention to detail so that we can bake healthy, yet no less tasty food,” adds Flores.
Additionally, Camarillo believes that offering healthier products to its customers is still better than going against what they stand for. As she emphasizes, “mission before commission”.
This story was produced by Probe Media Foundation Inc. (PMFI) and ImagineLaw (IL) as part of the (Un) Covering Trans Fats Media Training and Fellowship Program. The views and opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the PMFI and IL.