Trans fat is considered to be the worst type of fat in our food supply. It’s pretty scary stuff that’s known to increase our risk of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in both men and women in our country.
“Trans fat is created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil (a process called hydrogenation) to make it more solid.” Food manufacturers do this because it’s less likely to spoil and, therefore, gives food a longer shelf life. Some restaurants even use partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in their deep fryers because it doesn’t have to be changed as often – yuck! And the worst part is that trans fat is TRICKY.
Why it’s hard to find trans fat on food labels
- A nutrition label can say it has no trans fat even if it’s not true. That’s because, “The Nutrition Facts label can state 0 grams of trans fat if the food product contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.” This little fact comes straight from our government’s website. It’s important to know that if you eat several servings of foods that all contain 0.4 grams of trans fat per serving, it can obviously add up fast! Thanks, good ol’ government for approving that loophole for us!
- You won’t find “trans fat” on the ingredient label. That’s because our main source of trans fat comes from partially hydrogenated oil, so that is what you need to look for instead. Trans fat also occurs naturally in small amounts in meat and dairy products (and is present at very low levels in other edible oils), but this is not the main concern.
Trans fats are being phased out (but not for a while!)
It’s true, earlier this year our government finally admitted that trans fats are a threat to public health, and they have requested that the use of partially hydrogenated oils be reduced. BUT food companies have up to three years to comply, and even then they could petition the FDA to permit specific uses of these unhealthy oils. So, as far as I’m concerned, it’s up to us as the consumers to ensure we avoid trans fats!
Some products with trans fat
Other foods that commonly contain trans fat (source: FDA)
- Coffee creamer
- Crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies, and other baked goods
- Fast food
- Fried food such as chips, French fries, donuts, fried chicken
- Frozen pizza
- Ready-to-use frostings
- Refrigerated dough products (such as biscuits and cinnamon rolls)
- Snack foods (such as microwave popcorn)
- Vegetable shortenings and stick margarines
To avoid trans fat: Look for (and avoid)
“Partially Hydrogenated Oil” on the ingredient label!