Kathleen Zelman: Trans Fats -- Just How Bad Are They?
Get the trans fat facts
Zelman: First of all, read the nutrition labels and look at the total
fat and saturated fat, and remember that the information on the nutrition label
is per serving, so be sure to check the serving size. Choose reduced fat and
fat-free products whenever you can. Be a sleuth for the terms "partially
hydrogenated" or "hydrogenated oil" on the package ingredient list.
This list is different from the nutrition facts panel. It's the list of all the
ingredients in the product. It goes from the ingredients in the greatest amount
to the least amount. So if a product has as its first ingredient partially
hydrogenated oil, you can rest assure there will be plenty of trans fats in
Member question: Why are trans fats so bad? Haven't they been around
for a long time? Why are we just hearing about them now?
Zelman: There's been a decade-long debate about heart-health concerns
of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, which are the principle
sources of trans fats in our diet. The correlation between trans fats and heart
disease has come to light thanks to the Center for Science in the Public
Interest. They have been badgering Congress to make changes to help educate
consumers that trans fats act like saturated fats in the body and tend to
increase blood cholesterol levels. The information on food labels should help
millions of consumers make healthier choices and ultimately lower their blood
Moderator: What are the top ten trans fats foods out there?
Zelman: This is the top 10 list of where you're most likely to get
your trans fats:
- Margarine. Try to choose tub margarine, which will have the least
amount of both trans and saturated fats.
- Packaged foods. Things like cake mixes, Bisquick, they tend to add
fat into the mix. Do-it-yourself baking allows you to reduce the fat.
- Soups. Both dried and liquid soups can contain very high levels of
trans fats. Try making your own.
- Fast food. Primarily I mean those foods deep-fat fried, even when
some chains indicate they use liquid oil instead of partially hydrogenated oil
sometimes trans fats are sprayed on products in the food manufacturing. Order
grilled chicken or skip the fries.
- Frozen food. This included products from frozen dinners to frozen
chicken, frozen breaded fish or chicken, pizzas. Check the label. Even if it
says low fat, it can still have trans fat. Choose frozen food with the lowest
grams of total fat.
- Baked goods. Donuts, cookies, cakes, frostings, all have plenty of
trans fats. Make them at home or eat them less often or in smaller
- Candy and cookies. Lots of trans fats lurking in this area. If it
contains chocolate or coconut or other high-fat items, satisfy your sweet tooth
with things like hard candies or jelly beans, which don't have any fat.
- Chips and crackers. Go for baked if you must have your chips. Choose
low-fat crackers. Think pretzels and other alternatives that have no fat.
- Breakfast food. From cereals to breakfast bars, trans fats can be
found in this category. You need to read the label and choose cereals that have
no fat and breakfast and granola bars that are low in fat.
- Toppings, dips, and condiments. These would be things like salad
dressing, mayonnaise, gravy, whipped toppings, nondairy creamers, hot fudge.
Wherever you can, try to substitute a lower-fat alternative. For example, use
oil and vinegar instead of a creamy salad dressing; low-fat milk instead of