What is trans-fat?
Trans fat or trans fatty acids occur both naturally and artificially in our food. Naturally occurring trans fat is produced in the gut of some animals and traces of trans fat may be found in some animal products such as milk products and meat. Artificial trans fat is the most prevalent form of trans fat in the food supply and is created by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid; a process called hydrogenation. This process increases the shelf life and flavor stability of foods.
Why is it bad for you?
Eating too much trans fat raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol levels, which can increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Trans fat is a solid fat that cannot be broken down by the body and over time can clog arteries, which may lead to a heart attack or stroke. According to the American Heart Association, Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing over 375,000 Americans a year and it is the leading cause of death for women.
Common Trans Fat Foods
- Baked Goods (cookies, cakes, pies, crackers)
- Ready-to-use frostings
- Vegetable Shortening
- Refrigerated Dough Products (biscuit, cinnamon rolls, certain frozen pizza)
- Snack Foods (some potato chips and popcorn)
- Fried Food (primarily fast food)
- Stick Margarine
- Coffee Creamer
Trans fat labeling and bans
- FDA Labeling Requirements- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires manufacturers to list trans fat on the Nutrition Facts Label when a serving size contains 0.5 grams of trans-fat or more. Manufacturers are not required to list trans fat on the Nutrition Label if the amount per serving is less than 0.5 grams.
- Trans Fat Bans - In 2013, the FDA preliminary determined that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are not "generally recognized as safe," because of the known health risks they pose. In July 2015, the FDA officially began the process to eliminate artificial trans fats from the food supply and has given manufacturers 3 years to remove partially hydrogenated oils from their products.
In 2008, the Westchester County Board of Health passed an amendment to the Sanitary Code banning the use of cooking oils containing trans fat in County restaurants, schools and other licensed food service establishments.
Tips for reducing trans-fat in your diet:
- Read the Nutrition Facts Label and limit foods containing trans fat
- Check the ingredient list on the Nutrition Facts Label for partially hydrogenated oil even if the label says 0 grams trans fat or trans fat is not listed on the label. If a product contains partially hydrogenated oils, the amount of trans fat per serving could be less than 0.5 grams and listed on the label as 0 grams trans fat.
Keep in mind if you eat a portion bigger than the serving size (portions size vs. serving size) the amount of trans fat you are consuming could be more than you realize. Consider the portion size you are consuming as well as the number of foods you typically eat with partially hydrogenated oils.
- Try soft margarine instead of stick margarine
- Cook and baked with liquid oils (olive, canola) instead of shortening
- Limit processed snack foods
- Bake goods such as cookies and cakes from scratch
For more information on trans fats, visit:
- The American Heart Association
- The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for Heart Healthy Cooking Tips