Trans fat (also called trans
fatty acids) is formed when liquid vegetable oils go through a chemical
process called hydrogenation, in which hydrogen is added to make the oils
more solid. Hydrogenated vegetable fats are used by food processors
because they allow longer shelf-life and give food desirable taste, shape
The majority of trans fat can be found in shortenings, stick (or
hard) margarine, cookies, crackers, snack foods, fried foods (including
fried fast food), doughnuts, pastries, baked goods, and other processed
foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils. Some trans
fat is found naturally in small amounts in various meat and dairy
products. The FDA estimates that the average daily intake of trans
fat in the
population is about 5.8 grams or 2.6 percent of calories per day for
individuals 20 years of age and older.
Don’t make miscellaneous
mistakes. Not all trans fat comes from hydrogenated vegetable oil. Meat
and milk have small amounts of naturally occurring trans. But “small”
becomes substantial (seven grams) when you’re ordering a 16-ounce prime
fat behaves like saturated fat by raising low-density lipoprotein (LDL or
"bad") cholesterol that increases your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).
Trans fat can be found in some of the same foods as saturated fat,
such as vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies,
cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods
made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
A chicken pot pie has six grams of trans (and 11 grams of sat fat)
lurking in that innocent-looking pastry dough. And biscuits and gravy
start your day with four grams of trans (plus ten grams of saturated).
Trans fat is made when
hydrogen is added to vegetable oil -- a process called hydrogenation.
Hydrogenation increases the shelf life and flavor stability of foods
containing these fats. Usually the hydrogen atoms at a double bond are
positioned on the same side of the carbon chain. However, partial
hydrogenation reconfigures some double bonds and the hydrogen atoms end up
on different sides of the chain.
Here are some actions you can
take every day to keep your consumption of both saturated and trans
fats and cholesterol low while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.
Check the Nutrition
Facts panel to compare foods because
the serving sizes are generally consistent in similar types of foods.
Choose foods lower in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
For saturated fat and cholesterol, use the Quick Guide to %DV: 5%DV or
less is low and 20%DV or more is high. (Remember, there is no %DV for
Fats. Replace saturated and trans
fats in your diet with mono- and polyunsaturated fats. These fats do not
raise LDL (or "bad") cholesterol levels and have health benefits when
eaten in moderation. Sources of monounsaturated fats include
olive and canola oils. Sources of polyunsaturated fats include soybean,
corn, sunflower oils, and foods like nuts.
Choose vegetable oils
(except coconut and palm kernel oils) and soft margarines (liquid, tub,
or spray) more
because the combined amount of saturated and trans fats is lower
than the amount in solid shortenings, hard margarines, and animal fats,
Most fish are lower in saturated fat than meat. Some fish, such as
mackerel, sardines, and salmon, contain
omega-3 fatty acids
that are being studied to determine if they offer
protection against heart disease.
Limit foods high in
cholesterol such as liver and other
organ meats, egg yolks, and full-fat dairy products, like whole milk.
Choose foods low in
saturated fat such as fat free or 1%
dairy products, lean meats, fish, skinless poultry, whole grain foods,
and fruit and vegetables.