Where Are Trans Fats Hiding?
How do you limit these harmful fats? Print out this list of 10 foods to beware and take it to the supermarket!
Trans fatty acids -- better known as "trans fats" -- have emerged as
the food industry's newest bad boy.
Trans fats are formed during a process called hydrogenation, which converts
a relatively healthy, unsaturated liquid fat -- like corn oil or soybean oil --
into a solid one. This gives the fat longer shelf life, so it's convenient for
restaurants and food manufacturers.
The problem: The body treats hydrogenated fat more like saturated fat, like
butter or animal fat. Saturated fat has long been known to clog arteries -- and
some studies indicate trans fat may be a bit more evil. But on food labels,
trans fatty acids are not included under "saturated fat."
What to Do, What to Do...
To help consumers, the Food and Drug Administration is requiring that all
food labels list trans fats by January 1, 2006. Until then, how can you know
which foods are safe and which contain these stealth fats?
For guidance, WebMD turned to the nation's nutrition gurus -- the experts at
the American Dietetic Association (ADA).
"Until now, consumers were really in the dark about trans fatty acids.
In fact, most people are probably very confused right now," says Cindy
Moore, MS, RD, an ADA spokesperson. Moore is also director of nutrition therapy
at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
Here are four ways you can make healthier choices at the supermarket.
Immediately below these suggestions, we list the top 10 types of food loaded
with trans fats. Print out this list to become a wise, safer shopper.
#1. Limit or avoid both saturated and trans fats types of
There's no magic number to shoot for here, no "X" grams of trans
fatty acids allowed in your daily diet, Moore tells WebMD. Just realize that
the more fast food and packaged food you eat, the more trans fats you are
getting in your diet.
#2. Use nutrition labels to estimate the trans fat content
in a product.
Add up the saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. If they are
less than the "total fat" number, the remainder is likely trans fat,
#3. Remember: Reduced-fat and fat-free foods will have
virtually no trans fat in them.
#4. Look for the term "partially hydrogenated oil"
on the package ingredients list.
If partially hydrogenated oil is first on the list -- the product may
contain trans fat.
Some manufacturers have already changed their recipes and formulas to reduce
trans fats to less than 0.5% of fats. The ingredient list may state
"partially hydrogenated oil," but if the packaging says "Contains
No Trans Fats," you can believe it, says Moore.
Trans Fats Top 10
There's more good news. "It's very likely that in the next few months,
we'll be seeing more and more products without trans fats" as the food
industry adjusts to the new consumer awareness, Moore tells WebMD.