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trans fat information and articles:

what are trans fats?

all about fats

trans fat labeling

learn how to read labels for trans fats

what is hydrogenation?

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interesterified fat

 

The Dangers of Trans Fat

When you’re in the grocery store, don’t forget to take time to check labels for trans fats. Often found in fried foods, salad dressings, chips, and baked goods, trans fats have been scientifically proven to increase your risk of coronary heart disease.

What is Trans Fat?

In basic terminology, trans fat is made when a product manufacturer adds hydrogen to vegetable oil. The purpose of hydrogenation is to increase the flavor stability and shelf life of these processed foods.

Although fats such as the ones found in corn, olive, or soybean oil have good effects on your overall health, saturated fats and trans fats are not an essential part of a healthy diet.

While trans fats are primarily found in foods containing margarine or vegetable shortening, small amounts can be found in meat and certain dairy products. However, these natural trans fats do not have the same negative health effects.

The Dangers of Trans Fats

The dangers of trans fats lie in the effect they have on LDL cholesterol levels. Trans fats increase LDL cholesterol levels while reducing the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol in your body. This significantly increases your risk of a heart attack.

Trans fats are currently thought to cause at least 30,000 premature deaths each year. In addition, experts believe just reducing the amount of trans fats in margarines would prevent 6,300 heart attacks annually.

Since some people eat as much as 30 grams of trans fats per day, the dangers of trans fats have attracted widespread media attention. The group  Ban Trans Fats has started a nationwide campaign to eliminate partially hydrogenated oils. In the past, they’ve sued the Kraft foods over the marketing of Oreo cookies to California schoolchildren and they’re currently working to convince the manufacturers of popular snack foods to create healthier versions of their products.

Shopping Tips for Healthy Eating

Following a few simple shopping tips can help you minimize the dangers of trans fats in your diet.

  • As you’re planning your meals, it’s best to choose foods with the lowest possible amounts of cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat. Using the Nutrition Facts panel to compare foods is the best way to make healthy choices. However, even if the label says the product contains zero trans fats, it might still have partially hydrogenated oil or shortening in the ingredient list. Current FDA regulations allow products with servings that contain less than 0.5 gram of trans fat to be labeled as having zero trans fats.
  • Whenever possible, consider purchasing foods that contain alternative fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats do not raise LDL cholesterol levels in the way that trans fats do. In fact, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats offer health benefits when eaten in moderation.
  • Use soft margarines instead of solid shortenings when preparing baked goods.
  • If you’re worried about the trans fat found in meat, choose lean cuts or increase the amount of fish in your diet.
  • If you eat a lot of restaurant meals, get in the habit of asking how your food is prepared. Most restaurants will be happy to tell you which dishes contain high amounts of trans fats.

by Dana Hinders

   
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