Understanding Trans Fats

Do you know which fats are hidden in that bag of potato chips or in those cookies? They are called trans fats and are bad news for our health. According to the FDA, the average American consumes about 5.8 grams or 2.6% of calories per day from trans fats. Trans fats along with damaging saturated fats in our diet have been shown to increase the risk for heart disease. Starting January 1, 2006, all food manufacturers will have to list the amount of trans fats on food labels. Let Truestar teach you all about trans fats so you can learn how to avoid them in your diet.

What are Trans Fats?
Trans fats are a type of fat formed when manufacturers change a liquid oil into a solid such as shortening or margarine. This process is called hydrogenation and is appealing to manufacturers because it reduces costs, increases shelf life of a product and improves product characteristics such as flavour and texture. Trans fats, like the well-known saturated fats, can increase your risk for heart disease by increasing LDL (bad cholesterol). Trans fats also act by lowering HDL (good cholesterol). A diet high in both trans and saturated fats can also cause other serious health problems such as obesity and diabetes.

Where are Trans Fats found?
Trans fats lurk in foods containing vegetable shortenings and some margarines, crackers, cereals, cookies, snack foods, and other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils. They also exist in very small amounts in some dairy foods, beef and other animal-based foods.

Trans Fats on Food Labels
The good news is that now consumers will be able to see the whole picture of how much artery-clogging trans fats are tucked away in the foods they eat. New government regulations will require food manufacturers to show the amount of trans fats in their products. By January 1st 2006, all packaged goods will have the new label. This label will show a trans fat line directly below the saturated fat line of the Nutrition Facts panel on all products with a measurable level of trans fat (at least 0.5 grams per serving). The new food labeling regulations will provide consumers with information needed to make healthier food choices. It should also discourage manufacturers from using trans fats in their products. Click here for food labels.

Here are some tips on how to cut back your intake of trans fats:

1. Read nutrition labels.

Check the Nutrition Facts panel to see how much trans fats are in products. You should cut back your intake of trans and saturated fats to less than 10 % of calories per day of both combined. For more information, see Label Reading 101.

Read the ingredients to see if the words “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or shortening” are listed. If so, trans fats are in the products and the higher up they are on the list of ingredients, the more trans fat the product contains.
2. Replace bad fats with good fats. Try choosing foods made with unsaturated “good” fats rather than trans or saturated fats. Monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oils. Polyunsaturated fats include soybean, corn, sunflower oils and foods like nuts and fish. See Fats: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

3. Switch to non-hydrogenated products. Many food companies have now made non-hydrogenated versions of common foods. Try using non-hydrogenated margarines which have minimal amounts of trans fats.

Truestar to the rescue!
No diet can be completely free of these harmful fats. The trick is to become more aware of the foods which contain trans and saturated fats and to limit their intake and/or find healthier substitutes. Truestar meal plans offer healthy foods emphasizing good carbohydrates, lean proteins and healthy fats. Get on the Truestar Health plan of diet, exercise, supplements, attitude and sleep.