Trans Fat definition and how it affects your diet



We�ve all seen the labels�0% trans fat! Do you know the Trans Fat definition?

Lots of companies are using the Trans Fat definition as a marketing tool by putting "0% trans fat" on their labels to let you know that it�s okay-even healthy- to eat those cookies, cakes, pies, ice cream or peanut butter, as long as it says �0% trans fat� on the label. But be careful!

Trans Fat definition and nutrition labels

Recently, the government has required food maker�s to list on their nutrition label the amount of trans fat in their products.

The official Trans Fat definition is that a product must contain 0.5 grams or less of trans fat, it can be labeled �trans fat free�. But those 0.5 grams can be unhealthy if you eat more than the recommended serving size.



Just like in the 1980�s �Fat Free!� craze, sometimes the �healthy� substitute is worse than the original ingredient. People who ate �fat free� cookies back then thought that it was okay to eat the whole box of cookies as long as it said �fat free� on the label.

Unfortunately, many food manufacturer�s took out the fat and replaced it with more sugar. The poor consumer didn't know the difference and so in some cases, some products were even higher in calories after they took the fat out!



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How trans fat is made

So where exactly does trans fat come from? Trans fat is found mostly in �partially hydrogenated vegetable oils�-liquid oils mixed with hydrogen to create a fat that is stiff at room temperature. Believe it or not, it was originally intended to make baked goods healthier than those that contained butter or lard. Chemists learned how to create it in a lab during the early 20th century and food makers saw its potential as a cheap substitute for butter fat and beef tallow. Using partially hydrogenated vegetable oils gave the cookies, cakes and pies a longer shelf life. It became a common ingredient in many foods during the 20th century.

However, in the 1990�s, a study revealed that trans fats were as bad, if not worse, for you than the saturated fats it was designed to replace. The study showed that trans fats raised �bad� LDL cholesterol and lowered �good� HDL cholesterol.

Many food manufacturers saw the "writing on the wall" when this study was revealed and have successfully found substitutes for partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. These include corn, canola, olive and safflower oils.



So,what�s the best strategy for avoiding trans fats?

    Avoid "boxed", processed foods. Eat "original packaging" foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, low fat meats.

    If you can't avoid them...minimize the damage by reading the labels and choosing the ones which have the lowest amount of trans fat.

    Don't be afraid of fats. Essential fatty acids are critical to controlling diseases caused by bad fats.

    When in doubt, make sure the amount of saturated fats in the product are as low as possible.

    Drink plenty of water to flush your system of the fats you may eat.



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