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Finding the Best Trans Fat Alternatives

Now that trans fats are out of many snack foods, what’s in?
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Trans Fat Alternative 1: Back To Butter continued...

While this won't solve the shelf-life problem -- butter and lard can turn rancid relatively quickly -- she says it can solve the taste and texture problem immediately and give us more reason to enjoy what we eat, but in smaller quantities. As good as that sounds, it's also a solution that leaves some dietitians very concerned.

"Going back to saturated fats is not the answer," says dietitian Samantha Heller, MS, RD, a clinical nutritionist from Fairfield, Conn. "I think we've already proved as a nation that we are not going to eat a little bit. If we could, we probably wouldn't be having this problem with trans fats right now - or be facing an obesity epidemic, particularly in children."

Nutritionist Lona Sandon agrees: "I think it's worth looking for something other than saturated fat. But I think we have to tread carefully over this new ground to ensure we don't make the same mistakes we made with trans fat," says Sandon, a dietitian at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

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 convenience.

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 WebMD.

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 coconut oils.

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.

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