Before we dissect trans fats, it’s important to understand how it fits into the bigger picture.
Fat is an important component of a healthy diet, but the type of fat your family consumes makes a big difference. The majority of the fat you consume should be from the heart-healthy unsaturated fats, with a limit amount of saturated and trans fats. (1) This is how they differ:
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting the intake of trans fats to as little as possible. (2) This recommendation is a result of the strong body of research showing the health risks associated with trans fat intake. Many studies have found that trans fat intake is linked to increased LDL cholesterol (also called the ‘bad’ cholesterol), and decreased HDL cholesterol (or the ‘good’ cholesterol). This impact on cholesterol levels can increase anyone’s risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes and can also increase the chances of having a stroke. (1)
In June 2015, the FDA regarded trans fats as unsafe in food. However, the final compliance date for the total removal of artificial trans fats from food will not occur until 2021. While many fast food restaurants and food manufacturing companies have taken steps to decrease the trans fat present in their products, some trans fats can still be found on grocery store shelves and in restaurant menu items. As a consumer, here is how you can detect and avoid trans fat. (2)
Look for foods with 0 grams of trans fats on the Nutrition Facts Panel. Be aware that by law, manufacturers are allowed to claim a product contains 0 grams of trans fat if it has less than 0.5 grams per serving. Even if a product boasts 0 grams trans fat, it might actually contain 0.3 or 0.4 grams per serving. This can add up rather quickly, which is why reading the ingredient list is important.
If you see partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oil or shortening listed, that means the product contains some trans fat.
These include packaged desserts, microwaveable popcorn, margarine, coffee creamers, and frozen pizzas.
Aim to follow an eating pattern that emphasizes vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, low-fat dairy products, and lean proteins, and minimizes added fats and sugars. Learn more about what a healthy plate looks like.
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