Guide To Trans Fats (Cholesterol & Heart Disease)

Trans Fatty Acids

Trans fats have been linked to raised blood cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) and heart disease. According to the latest Dietary Guidelines, consumers are warned to reduce their intake of foods high in this type of fat.

How And Why Are Trans Fats Produced?

Trans fats (or trans-fatty-acids) are produced when liquid vegetable oils undergo a food refining process called “hydrogenation”. During this process, hydrogen is added to make the oils more solid. Food manufacturers produce these “hydrogenated vegetable fats” because they deteriorate at a slower speed thus permitting food products a longer shelf-life, as well as enhanced taste and texture.

Why Are Trans Fats Unhealthy?

A growing body of medical evidence indicates that consumption of trans fat raises levels of LDL – the bad cholesterol- and reduces levels of HDL – the good cholesterol. This double whammy increases the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which itself is an independent risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.

What Foods Contain Trans Fats?

Trans fat are commonly found in foods like: shortenings, hard margarine, cakes, cookies, crackers, snack foods, fried foods, donuts, pastries, baked goods, and other processed foods made with “partially hydrogenated oils”. In addition, small amounts of trans fatty acids occur naturally in various meat and dairy products.

How Much Trans Fat Do We Eat?

According to estimates provided by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the average daily intake of trans fat in the U.S. population is about 5.8 grams or 2.6 percent of calories per day for individuals 20 years of age and older. This compares with a maximum average recommended daily intake of 2.3 grams.

How To Lower Your Intake Of Trans Fat

1. Limit your intake of processed foods/ingredients such as shortenings, hard margarine, cakes, cookies, crackers, snack foods, donuts and pastries. Also, reduce your intake of fried food, and fry with less oil at a lower temperature.

2. Always read the food nutrition label before buying foods. Choose food brands with the lowest content of “trans fat”, “hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats/oils” and cholesterol.

3. Switch from saturated and trans fats in your diet to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil and canola oil are better vegetable oils.

4. Buy soft margarine instead of solid shortenings, stick margarines, or butter.