The quick answer: Avoid deep fat fried foods. Period. It’s about more than toxic trans fats.
If you ranked the food disasters of the last century, the two worst would be excess sugar (whether table sugar, artificial sweeteners, or HFCS) and hydrogenated seed oils. You could argue about which one caused more premature deaths, but the smart thing is to avoid both. Last week we talked about sugary drinks (including so-called “diet” drinks); this week we address the deep fat fryer.
The main dietary source of trans fats, after margarine, is the deep fat fryer (they typically contain hydrogenated seed oils full of toxic trans fats). We recently commented on progress in banning trans fats as proposed by Frank Kummerow, a true hero of the Food Reformation. (Yes, I’ve started capitalizing “food reformation” because it’s the biggest movement of the time, in my view.) You can read more about Dr. Kummerow here.
Some day the FDA will finally ban trans fats from food, a long overdue action. But even after that good day, the factory or restaurant deep fat fryer should still be avoided because no fat can sit for days in a hot deep fat fryer and not be harmful due to fat oxidation and toxic by-products (like AGEs or Advanced Glycation End-products).
The picture above shows typical deep fat fryer products—French fries, onion rings, donuts, and chicken. These should be avoided.
But deep fat fryers are now in every commercial kitchen, in the area called the “hot line.” The hot line is where the final heating is done and includes a grill, microwave, stovetop, and a deep fat fryer. Of these methods, the deep fat fryer offers the quickest way to reheat food and add a crispy fatty texture. It gets used a lot.
So now when ordering cooked foods, you have to check that they’re not coming out of a deep fat fryer. These is especially true in the chain restaurants that use central factory kitchens and just dip the frozen items into a deep fat fryer for quick reheating (and an extra coat of potentially-toxic refined oils).
Healthy Change #2:
This means no French fries, no onion rings, no corn dogs, no donuts, and especially, no deep-fried Twinkies. The language of this Healthy Change does leave a door open: you can cook these foods at home, using healthy oil. Because this is difficult, in our home we replaced French fries with Oven Roasted Fries and we follow the "golden rule" which means lightly cooked, not heated until they're brown.
Please comment: We're not opposed to eating fats—they're necessary to good health. We don't even propose a "low-fat" diet—there was never a scientific basis for avoiding traditional fats. So enoy healthy fats, and please share your favorite recipes.