What are trans fats?
Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat that have been chemically changed in terms of structure. This can get very complex, but here is the gist... Unsaturated fatty acids have a specific chemical arrangement, with various atoms being arranged in a specific way. They also have double carbon-to-carbon bonds in their arrangement and these double bonds can act as swivels, or a point where the molecule can rotate. When the right stimulus is applied, these double carbon-to-carbon bonds can twist and cause the atomic arrangement of the fat to flip around and become almost like a mirror image of itself. This is called isomerism. Structures can be in a cis or trans isomer, meaning that the cis state has the atoms in one arrangement, and trans has the atoms in another.
And where can we encounter these?
In commercial food preparation some unsaturated fats can flip from the cis arrangement (which is their normal state) to the trans arrangement. This is done to change the properties, i.e, to make oils that are usually liquid at room temperature semi solid as in margarines. When this occurs, these fats can become very detrimental to our health.
What should people know about them? What are the dangers?
They seem to have a much higher propensity to cause cardiovascular disease and have been associated with triggering vascular injury and endothelial damage (damage to the lining of the blood vessels). This has been a talking point for easily a decade or more, so awareness of them in a negative context has been around a long time.
Now let's talk carbs. What's your opinion on carbs in a diet?
This is such a variable thing and something that doesn’nt have a definitive answer. I am most definitely of the opinion that refined simple carbs should be kept to an absolute minimum. These are the simpler carbohydrates that can aggressively raise blood sugar, cause insulin spikes, and a cocktail of metabolic problems when consumed frequently.
What's the right amount of carbs? Is there a right amount for everyone?
Nope! We all have different tolerance levels, different genetics, different basal metabolic rates, different activity levels etc. Someone who is a sedentary type 2 diabetic will have a completely different response to carbohydrates to an elite athlete. It isn’t really possible to give absolute guidelines here, as it has to be more person centred. That being said, I do believe that opting for a low glycaemic diet can have tremendous benefits to metabolic health.
Do you think a keto diet (high-fat, low-carb) is sustainable? Could it be the future of diets?
This is actually close to my own personal diet, as I seem to function far better on high fat low carbohydrate moderate protein. I really don’t tolerate carbohydrates well at all and whenever I increase my intake of them, it affects me in so many negative ways. As soon as I switch over to a keto type diet again, I thrive.
How can we eat our way to a beautiful glow this summer?
A good fresh wholesome whole foods diet. Certain key nutrients can help: Carotenoids for example that make orange yellow and some red colour pigments in food can accumulate in the subcutaneous layer of the skin and give it a bit of a glow. Some studies have also shown that they can reduce the risk of sun damage to the skin to some degree.
What's in the pipeline for you?
Series two of Eat Shop Save - the TV show I co-present - is due to start on Thursday 26th July, 7.30pm on ITV. Its all about working with families to help eat healthier when they have hurdles such as financial pressures, lack of time, or a house full of fussy eaters. I have also just launched a brand new interactive online nutrition school called ‘Nutrition Coaching Monthly’ where I hold live classes that teach the subject at a very high level. The live sessions are then stored in an online archive that acts as your personal teaching library that grows every month and can be accessed any time on any device. We have everyone from high school students to doctors. You can find out more on my website.More from the Journal