The consumption of trans fats, along with saturated fats and cholesterol, increases the risk of heart disease. To close the gap between knowing about trans fats and avoiding foods that contain them, we’ve rounded up useful pointers that will help you make the right choices in the grocery aisles.
Trans fats are made when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil during the manufacturing process, so it’s best to avoid any oils or shortenings that have fully or partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredients. In general, it’s best to use oils with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats (a.k.a. the “good” fats), such as olive, canola, corn, soybean and sunflower oils.
Most soft margarines, like I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! and Parkay, have low levels of saturated and trans fats. These are recommended over hard margarines, shortenings, real butters and animal fats.
According to the FDA, there are small amounts of trans fats that naturally occur in animal-based foods. Therefore, it’s always best to choose lean proteins, such as poultry without the skin, or lean beef and lean pork with the fat trimmed off. But remember, the benefits of lean proteins are cancelled out when they’re fried before serving. Instead, try roasting or grilling the meats.
A 2003 survey by the FDA found that 40% of the trans fats in the average American adult diet comes from cakes, cookies, crackers, pies and breads. Because of this, it’s very important to read the Nutrition Facts panel before purchasing these types of treats. Though there is no daily value percentage assigned to trans fats, the American Heart Association recommends less than 2 grams per day. Many snack foods advertise no trans fats, but keep in mind that the FDA allows food manufacturers to list the amount of trans fats as 0 if the serving has .5 grams or less—so make sure you double-check that the ingredient list does not contain fully or partially hydrogenated oils. It’s also best to look for foods that have less than 20% of the daily recommended amount of saturated fats and cholesterol.