Finding the Best Trans Fat Alternatives
Now that trans fats are out of many snack foods, what’s in?
Trans Fat Alternative 2: Invent Something New
The trans fat alternative involves creating an entirely new vegetable oil --
either by rearranging molecules to form a new oil, or by interbreeding various
plants to create a new oil.
Kellogg's is one company moving in this direction, using genetically
engineered soybeans to create a product low in trans fat but high in taste and
But dietitians are wary of the concept. After all, Heller notes, we
developed the hydrogenation process to make trans fats because researchers
thought those fats would be healthier, but they weren't.
"Coming up with a replacement for trans fat is a little like pulling a
rabbit out of a hat. And we just hope the rabbit is healthy," Heller tells
Trans Fat Alternative 3: Use Saturated Vegetable Oils
Still another option is to reexamine the usefulness of saturated vegetable
fats -- including the "tropicals" such as palm, palm kernel, and
Tropical oils have a creamy consistency that can mimic the kind of chemistry
found in saturated fats from animal sources, such as butter. Thus, they can
offer similar tastes and textures when used in packaged cookies and crackers.
But because they come from plants -- and not animals -- some believe their
saturated-fat content may not be as bad for health.
"The golden rule has always been to stay away from the tropical oils
because, although they are vegetable oils, they are saturated fats,"
Pappa-Klein tells WebMD. But now, she says this philosophy is changing, as more
and more studies begin to show that not all saturated fats are equally bad for
"It's possible there could be some redeeming values in these oils after
all -- and that they are not as harmful as we once thought," says
Indeed, a study conducted by the French Agricultural Society and published
in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2008 suggests that the
negative of effects of trans fat may be largely the result of the hydrogenation
process - and that trans fats found naturally in foods do not carry nearly the
same level of health risks.
Moreover, the Organic Trade Association reports renewed interest in oil that
comes from the fruit of the palm -- not the seed, which makes palm kernel oil.
Oil from the fruit, they say, is only 50% saturated fat; the rest is 40%
polyunsaturated and 10% monounsaturated. In fact, some studies show that the
fat in palm oil (known as palmitic acid) may actually help lower blood
Some food manufacturers are turning to tropical oils, but, again, many
dietitians are wary. Says Heller: "Any product that reduces trans fat is
good, but when trans fats are replaced by saturated fats it's not necessarily a
Check the nutrition facts panel for the best snapshot of what is contained
in the product and choose products with the least amount of saturated fat.