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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 3: Use Saturated Vegetable Oils continued...

"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 health.

"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 Pappa-Klein.

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 cholesterol.

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 healthy alternative.

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.

Trans Fat Alternative 4: Use What We Have More Wisely

All three dietitians tell WebMD that the real future of our snack food industry may rest on this fourth option: Blending currently acceptable oil products into formulations that yield the benefits of partially hydrogenated oils -- shelf life, texture, and taste -- while exposing us to fewer risks.

This already seems to be the trend for several forward-thinking companies. Crisco, the long-time manufacturer of fats used in baked goods and frying, now offers a trans fat-free shortening made from a combination of sunflower, soy, and cottonseed oil. There are also multiple brands of trans-fat-free margarines and other products on the shelves today.

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