Raid Your Pantry – Trans Fats in Hiding

I’m going to start today’s post with a story:

Back in my college days, I did an internship at a local hospital, where I spent most of my days handing out Saltine Crackers and Ginger Ale to patients (in between bed-pan cleanings, of course).  One fine day, I went to give some kind old gentleman his Saltine Crackers as usual. However, this particular guy was not very pleased with his food selection. Upon reading the label, he threw them at me yelling “I’m Not eating any of that partially-hydrogenated CRAP!!”  Meaning, of course, the partially hydrogenated oils on the ingredient list.

Now, at the time, I thought he was Bat Sh*t Crazy. But as it turns out, he knew his stuff. As we know now, partially hydrogenated oils = trans-fats = devil food. Trans-fats are not to be lumped in with the other fats I mentioned here and here, as these guys have actually been shown to lower your HDL (good cholesterol) and raise your LDL (bad cholesterol), contributing significantly to coronary heart disease.  Trans-fats DO exist in some animal products in trace amounts, so it may be virtually impossible to eliminate them completely, and the National Academy of Sciences has  “recommended that trans fatty acid consumption be as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet”.  To make it simple, avoiding all natural sources: almost impossible. Avoiding processed sources: totally possible.

Fast forward to present day.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that Will (mah boyfriend) was going through the kitchen throwing away some of our spices. Now, considering the fact that this is someone who gets very upset about throwing food away, this was something that was extremely out of the ordinary. When I went to investigate, it turns out that he was throwing these spices out for good reason. A reason that will probably surprise a lot of you: They had trans-fats in them.

Shocking, I know.

While most of us have gotten the memo about the evils of trans-fats and cleared our homes of all the processed crap that contains this stuff (…right?) I bet one place you never thought you had to look was in your spice cabinet.

Now, I’m not talking about the legitimate spices, like oregano, basil, thyme, etc. I’m talking about the spice mixes. The ones that we found in our kitchen alone were:

McCormick Garlic Sea Salt

McCormick Montreal Chicken Seasoning

McCormick Vegetable Medley Seasoning

Of Course none of them list trans-fats on the nutrition label, but a closer look at the ingredient list revealed the culprit:

Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (aka Trans-Fat City)

And as I’m sure most people are aware of by now, companies are allowed to list “0 Trans Fats” on the nutrition facts, as long as the amount per serving is less than .5 grams. Before you yell at me, yes, the amount that you’d be getting from one shake of the spice jar is miniscule.  But the kicker is that trans-fats accumulate in your body, which  means that if you have a little here, and a little there, they will add up, and they may very well do you harm in the long run.

After we found this little devil hiding in our pantry, I took it upon myself to do a little investigating. I actually went to our local grocery store (Shaw’s) and stood in the baking aisle, reading the ingredient label for just about every single spice.  Yes, I did get a few weird looks, but hey, it’s worth it in the name of public health, right?

As for the results of my spice-snoop: I have both good news and bad news for you.

First, the good news:

The spices that I had in my pantry were a little bit older (probably at least a couple of years, honestly), and in my new search I found that McCormick has apparently smartened up and eliminated the trans-fats from their ingredients, including in the spices mentioned above. YAY McCormick!

And Now, for the bad news:

As I got through the McCormick spices, I was happy to see no partially-hydrogenated oils on any of the ingredient lists. However, I did find some on a couple of other spices from a company called Lawrys: in their Garlic Salt and Garlic Powder.

(Sorry about the blur, I was trying to take these relatively quickly before I was asked to leave for creeping on the spices for too long)

I know it’s a little difficult to read, but both of these include partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never even considered that there may be trans-fats in the spices that I’m using, especially something that seems so simple as garlic salt.

So I guess I have two major thoughts here:

  1. Lawrys: Get your act together. You know better. 
  2. It is worth taking the five minutes to check your own pantry. If you are like me and tend to hold on to spices for a while, you just may have some of these old McCormick spices that have trans-fats in them, and there are clearly some brands that are still using them today, unfortunately.

And on those lines, just because I was in the baking aisle, I decided to scope out some pudding mixes as well since I’ve been seeing quite a few recipes on blogs that include pudding mixes as sweeteners for greek yogurt/cottage cheese/etc. What I found was that all of the Jello Brand pudding was trans-fat free (Yay!!), however my store (Shaws) brand, was not (Boo).

So finally, just a reminder to be careful because trans-fats can hide in the sneakiest of places, the foods where you would least expect them. Have any of you had to eliminate foods you like because of trans-fats? Do you pay attention to food labels and ingredient lists?

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18 thoughts on “Raid Your Pantry – Trans Fats in Hiding

  1. I just ran to check all my spices. None of them have it, but I’m hoping it’s because I live in Australia. A) The US seems much sneakier about hiding bad ingredients in food, and B) The spice selection here is booooring. I often read other blogs and drool over the sound of some of the flavour combinations, but I guess my chicken breasts sprinkled with plain dried chillies aren’t so bad.

    • Yes, I would venture to say that this type of thing is most likely more of a problem in the US than in other countries…I was really glad to see that the newer McCormick spice blends didn’t include the trans-fats, but there are still plenty of culprits out there, hiding trans-fats in all types of foods you would never expect!

  2. Thank you for doing a post on this! It’s insane how many products contain trans fat…. that even spices do becuase most of the populations think spices=herbs and obviously can’t be bad for you. Trans fats are so easily hidden in this type of product because nobody thinks to look. Goes to show you can’t trust much anymore when it comes to nutrition/safety sadly.

  3. SO whack! I’ve fell into the spices trap before..they looks so innocent! My boyfriend and I came across ‘bacon salt’ in the grocery store last night…I looked at the ingredients and almost died..it was like a paragraph long!! Corn syrup, soybean oil, hydrogenated oil…

  4. Pingback: Trans fats – the good*, the bad, and the ugly | I Train, Therefore I Eat.

  5. Sugar is The Evil one, if you have Fatty Liver. With So much Sugar Trans Fat, and Soy hidden in Processed Foods, not to Mention GMO’s. Fatty Livers are on the up Rise. It’s
    About Balance. The right type of sugar, in Balance!

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