Are Trans Fats Clogging Your Arteries?

What do Dunkin Donuts, Jell-O Pudding Snacks, and Frito-Lay Tostitos Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips have in common aside from being such all-time American favorite goodies? All of them are guilty - with the sin of having trans fat.

You may ask what is the trans fat. Because you now know, the foods that have this often unlabeled but present ingredient. Trans fat results from hydrogenation. Hydrogenation happens when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil and a certain percentage of the unsaturated fat transforms into trans fat. Trans fat is useful for several reasons:

  • Increases the shelf life of packaged food.
  • Stabilizes the flavor of foods containing saturated fats, among others.
  • Solidifies other key ingredients like margarine and other baked goods.

Unfortunately, it acts like saturated fats and clogs the heart’s arteries. This is a serious concern as most Americans consume 4 to 5 times as much saturated fat as trans fat in their diets.

Awareness over trans fat reached its peak because of the warning from the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, a body that advises the government on health problems. It issued its official position on trans fat: Trans fat worsens blood-cholesterol levels and almost surely increases the risk of heart disease.

Because of this, the FDA issued a ruling that food manufacturers have to list trans fat on their nutrition labels until Jan. 1, 2006. The transition minimized the need for multiple labeling changes, allowed small businesses to use up current label inventories, and provided a measure of savings. So you can check for the listing of trans fat on the Nutrition Facts panel directly under the line for saturated fat.

Health experts agree that it is not possible to eliminate all of the trans fat from your diet. However, you can take the following steps to ensure it stays at its minimum.

When choosing to choose foods low in saturated fats and cholesterol, use the general rule of thumb. Remember, 5 percent or less of the Daily Value is low and 20 percent or more is high.

You can also do trade-offs. You don’t have to permanently give up a favorite food to eat healthier. Try picking a low-fat version of that favorite food. Or, when you eat food that is high in saturated fat, consume other foods that are lower in fat content during the day.

You should also be aware that the energy bar that you're eating because of your health may contain trans fat. Again, you should check the nutrition panel. Thanks to the FDA's new label requirement, dietary supplements that contain 0.5 grams of trans fat or saturated fat must be listed in the supplement facts panel.

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