As Fran Lebowitz, a writer and humorist said, "Food is an important part of a balanced diet." With the latest ruling from the FDA regarding trans fat labeling even more emphasis is being placed on a balanced diet. By 2006 food manufacturers will have to list the amount of trans fat in a food or food product if it is .5 grams or greater per serving.
Ever wonder how trans fats ended up in so many foods? Actually the history of trans fats were discovered around the turn of the 20th century and was introduced into the public's kitchen as Crisco ®. Here is even more information about their history: Trans Fat facts and history. As a scientist at heart I find the scientific background and the history of trans fats intriguing. To learn more read here: Trans Fat facts and history
The Dietary Guidelines for American says, "Foods high in trans fatty acids tend to raise blood cholesterol. These foods include those high in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, such as many hard margarines and shortenings. Foods with a high amount of these ingredients include some commercially fried foods and some bakery good. Aim for a total fat intake of not more than 30 percent of calories, as recommended in previous Guidelines. If you need to reduce your fat intake to achieve this level, do so primarily by cutting back on saturated and trans fats."
It is important to remember that fat is a major source of energy for the body and aids in the absorption of certain vitamins and carotenoids. Both animal and plant-derived food products contain fat and is important for proper growth, development, and maintenance of good health. Fats provide taste, consistency, and stability and help us feel full.
Not all fats are the same. Fats have been placed into two broad categories of “good fats” and “bad fats” emphasizing not all fats are the same.
Unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) are beneficial when consumed in moderation and saturated fat and trans fat are not. Saturated fat and trans fat raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL) ("bad") cholesterol.
Trans fat is a specific type of fat formed when food manufacturers turn liquid oils into solid fats like shortening and hard margarine. A small amount of trans fat is found naturally, primarily in some animal-based foods. Because studies show a positive association between the intake of trans fatty acids and the incidence of CHD there will undoubtedly be those extremists who will try to unnecessarily eliminate all trans fats from their diet. Eliminating trans fat completely from the diet would require such extraordinary dietary changes (e.g., elimination of foods, such as dairy products and meats that contain trans fatty acids) which could cause an inadequate intake of some nutrients and create health risks.
Because trans fat behaves like saturated fat by raising LDL cholesterol that increases your risk of coronary heart disease reducing the amount of trans fat in your diet can make a positive contribution to your overall heart health. Trans fat can be found in some of the same foods as saturated fat, such as vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, salad dressings, and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Trans fat is made when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil -- a process called hydrogenation, which increases the shelf life and flavor stability of foods containing these fats.Simply put, the more hydrogenated or harder the vegetable oil has been made the more trans fat it will contain, i.e., stick margarine will have more trans fat than tub margarine and tub margarine will have more trans fat than squeeze margarine.
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. One new recommendation made by the American Heart Association is to limit trans fat to less than one percent of total calories. For an average adult consuming a 2,000 kcal diet, that means no more than two grams of trans fat a day!Some actions you can take every day to keep your intake of both saturated and trans fats and cholesterol low while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet. Check the Nutrition Facts panel to compare foods. Choose foods lower in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. For saturated fat and cholesterol, use the Quick Guide to percent Daily Value (%DV): 5%DV or less is low and 20%DV or more is high. (Remember, there is no %DV for trans fat.). Choose Alternative Fats. Replace saturated and trans fats with mono- and polyunsaturated fats. These fats do not raise LDL cholesterol levels and have health benefits. Sources of monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oils. Sources of polyunsaturated fats include soybean, corn, sunflower oils, and foods like nuts. Choose vegetable oils (except coconut and palm kernel oils) and soft margarines (liquid, tub, or spray) more often because the combined amount of saturated and trans fats is lower than the amount in solid shortenings, hard margarines, and animal fats, including butter. Consider Fish. Most fish are lower in saturated fat than meat. Some fish, such as mackerel, sardines, and salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids that are being studied to determine if they offer protection against heart disease. Limit foods high in cholesterol such as liver and other organ meats, egg yolks, and full-fat dairy products, like whole milk. Choose foods low in saturated fat such as fat free or 1% dairy products, lean meats, fish, skinless poultry, whole grain foods, and fruit and vegetables.
Although this seems like a lot of work, remember we are all in this together. Good heart health is important for everyone to live a long and healthy life.