Trans fats: Only a small part of the problem
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With increasing frequency, we are hearing about trans fats and their elimination from many food sources. While reducing trans fat in the diet is a very good thing, it is not the entire story. In fact, it's only a small part of the story and all this hype about trans fat is misleading because it may lead people to believe that only trans fats are bad and that food without trans fat must therefore be good. And this is completely false.
Trans fats, saturated fats and cholesterol all raise LDL the “bad” cholesterol and lower HDL the “good” cholesterol. Trans fats from all sources provide only two to four percent of total calories compared with 12 percent from saturated fat and 34 percent from total fat in the American diet. So you can see that there is much more saturated fat in the typical American diet than trans fat and that eliminating one without the other only deals with a small part of the problem.
Lets talk about fats. Fats are either saturated or unsaturated. You don't need to understand the chemistry behind this difference, just remember that saturated fat is bad and most unsaturated fat is better for you. Just to make things complicated trans fats are actually unsaturated but they are changed in such a way as to make them “bad.” This is why the FDA changed the food label requirements to show both saturated fat and trans fat. Let me explain. Prior to this change labels only had to reveal saturated fat and total fat. Because trans fats are unsaturated, they were “hiding” in the total fat section and therefore people were mislead as to how much “bad” fat there was. Now you can look at the label and see saturated fat and trans fat as well as total fat (the rest of the total is made up of unsaturated fats that are not “bad”. You can add saturated fat and trans fat to get the total “bad” fat content.
Trans fats are unsaturated, but they can raise total and LDL "bad" cholesterol and lower HDL "good" cholesterol. Trans fats result from adding hydrogen to vegetable oils (called partially hydrogenated) used in commercial baked goods and for cooking in most restaurants and fast-food chains.
• Cookies, crackers and other commercial baked goods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils may be high in trans fat.
• French fries, donuts and other commercial fried foods are major sources of trans fat in the diet.
I've talked about trans fats so much because that's what's “hot” these days. But as I noted above, saturated fat is much more common in the diet and just as bad for you as trans fat.
Don't be fooled by foods labeled “no trans fat.” You must also look at the saturated fat content. Of course you have to look at cholesterol as well.
Here are some basic guidelines as provided by the :
• Limit foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and/or cholesterol, such as whole-milk dairy products, fatty meats, tropical oils, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and egg yolks (also, see above for more trans fatty foods like snack and fried foods). Instead choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. Here are some helpful tips:
Video: Trans Fat In Meat And Dairy
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