Trans fat is in the darndest places

>> Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Have you ever really paid attention to the trans fat hiding in your food? We've been working to greatly reduce the foods that contain partially-hydrogenated oils from our home diet. It's amazing all of the foods that still contain some amount of trans fat in them!

One of the foods that caught me off guard was flour tortillas. I use tortillas a lot. Wraps are a favorite lunch of mine, and we frequently eat quesadillas, wraps, and burritos for dinner. Most every flour tortilla on my supermarket shelf contains partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oil. (You may remember from my discussion on trans fat that unless the oil is specifically stated as being fully-hydrogenated, it might contain trans fat.)

Let's look at Mission tortillas - my tortilla of choice before all of this. Their regular (meaning not reduced fat) tortillas all contain hydrogenated oil. Since they don't make the distinction of the oil being fully hydrogenated, I'm left to assume that there is some amount of trans fat in it. Oddly, their 96% Fat Free Heart Healthy line contains partially-hydrogenated oil as an ingredient. Hmmm...heart healthy? Really? The other brands at my grocery store are really not any better.

Of course, there are flour tortillas out there that are free of hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils. We've switched to Rico Handmade Wheat Flour Tortillas for now. Yes, they are higher in calories and fat than the low-fat tortillas I was using before, but the ingredient list is so simple - and trans fat free. If you live in Utah or surrounding states, you may be able to find Rico brand in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.

Or you can make your own. I haven't gone that route yet, though I think that I will try it soon and see how well homemade tortillas freeze. Itty Bitty Bistro has a recipe that is very intriguing. Their flour tortilla recipe uses no fat at all save a spray of oil on the outside of the tortilla. I will have to try these soon to see how they taste.

Do you have a favorite flour tortilla with a friendly ingredient list? If you do, pass the brand name along in the comments!


Maria May 13, 2009 at 10:58 AM  

I hate it when they hide trans fats. A big pet peeve of mine! Most tortilla's have trans fat, sad! I like Whole Foods whole wheat tortillas. I buy some at Sunflower Market too that are good and healthy but i can't think of the brand right now. Sorry!

The Happy Runner May 13, 2009 at 11:38 AM  


I LOVE Rudi's Organics and I've been eating their multigrain wraps. THey're good!

laura May 13, 2009 at 12:47 PM  

Dangit. I can confirm the multi-grain Mission tortillas do, too. Thanks for pointing this out. Looks like I need to learn how to make tortillas.

My Year Without May 13, 2009 at 3:38 PM  

Hi Cathy!

Great post. Who would think to watch out for trans fats in flour tortillas?!

A couple thoughts:

1. I buy Ezekial brand tortillas. They are sprouted wheat and very seedy/nutty. They actually tend to get quite hard, but if you're just melting cheese on them, they're great.

2. You mention the "heart healthy" seal of approval. You might be interested to read Marion Nestle's book "Food Politics", pages 123-126 which gives the background of the phrase "heart healthy." It might surprise you. It's a great book that I think you would enjoy, too.

3. I was in Mexico last summer and afraid that I would have to ask everyone for package label ingredients. Instead, I watched tortillas being made fresh. It was a pleasant surprise and they tasted delicious!

Kara May 13, 2009 at 4:23 PM  

The homemade tortillas I make (i.e., the itty bitty bistro recipe - thanks for the shout-out!) are slightly tougher than a store-bought tortilla - but not much, and I love knowing precisely what is in my tortilla. I think they're more flavorful with the cumin and add more to the meal :-) I had not ever thought to check the store-bought tortillas for trans-fats! We don't buy them that often, but we do when I know I'll be pressed for time. Yikes!

Jon (was) in Michigan May 13, 2009 at 6:19 PM  

Ok, I just THREW OUT the bag of Mission 96% Fat Free tortillas that were in my fridge.

I do eat La Tortilla Factory Smart & Delicious Wraps. 12 grams of fiber, no partially hydrogenated oils. They have a little monounsaturated fat which I think comes from the olive oil in the ingredients. Not much in there, but at least its something.

Amy Ellen May 14, 2009 at 9:51 AM  

Hi Cathy,

I posted about your blog on my blog today. If you'd like to read my comments, go here:

Thanks for your great blog!
Amy Ellen

James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. May 14, 2009 at 10:03 AM  

Just like HFCS, you have to look at the ingredients and don't assume

cathy May 14, 2009 at 11:54 AM  

Maria - Oh, to have a Whole Foods or Sunflower Market here!

The Happy Runner - Grr...our store doesn't carry Rudi's tortillas. I think I'll see if I can change that!

Laura - when you perfect your tortilla recipe, share with the rest of us!

My Year Without - Oh, I might be able to get Ezekial brand tortillas. I'll have to check on that! "Food Politics" is on my reading list. Thanks for the rec!

Kara - Can't wait to try them!

Jon - I've not heard of that brand before. I'll be on the lookout now!

Amy Ellen - Thanks so much for the kind words on your blog! You've got lots of great information on your blog!

Dr. Hubbard - Indeed you do! It pops up in the strangest of places.

Cynthia May 14, 2009 at 7:48 PM  

For those dieters out there who have been or are currently using Hydroxycut supplements to diet or get in shape, you should know it's been recalled and is apparently very dangerous. This site has a lot of good information on its problems.

Sagan May 16, 2009 at 6:26 AM  

Ugh, I know, it's everywhere, isn't it? That's why I like making my own tortillas! It's actually incredibly easy with such simple ingredients.

Lori May 17, 2009 at 7:45 AM  

I am such a sucker for wraps and tortillas. *sigh* I wish manufacturers would stop hiding bad things in our food. So frustrating!

When we move back to the US I'm planning on learning how to make my own. We'll see how that goes. :)

Shared Decision Making May 20, 2009 at 11:47 AM  

How are trans fats bad for heath could you please explain more on that?

cathy May 20, 2009 at 12:04 PM  

Shared Decision Making - you can read one of my old posts for more info on trans fat:

Electronic Medical Records May 31, 2009 at 10:05 AM  

What is hidden behind the more tasty fast foods have to be understood and deleted from life...good post.

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