Scientific evidence shows that consumption of saturated fat, trans
fat, and dietary cholesterol raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad cholesterol," levels, which increases
the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). According to the National
Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, more than 12.5 million Americans have
CHD, and more than 500,000 die each year. That makes CHD one of the leading causes of death in the United
The Food and Drug Administration has required that saturated fat
and dietary cholesterol be listed on food labels since 1993. Starting Jan.1, 2006, listing of trans fat will be
required as well. With trans fat added to the Nutrition Facts panel, required by Jan. 1, 2006, you will know for
the first time how much of all three--saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol--are in the foods you choose.
Identifying saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol on the food label gives you information you need to make food
choices that help reduce the risk of CHD. This revised label will be of particular interest to people concerned
about high blood cholesterol and heart disease.
However, everyone should be aware of the risk posed by consuming
too much saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. But what is trans fat, and how can you limit the amount of this
fat in your diet?
What is Trans Fat ?
Basically, trans fat is made when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil--a
process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenation increases the shelf life and flavor stability of foods containing these
Trans fat can be found in vegetable shortenings, some
margarines, crackers, cookies, snack foods, and other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils.
Unlike other fats, the majority of trans fat is 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
Trans fat, like saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, raises the LDL
cholesterol that increases your risk for CHD. Americans consume on average 4 to 5 times as much saturated fat as
trans fat in their diets.
Although saturated fat is the main dietary culprit that raises LDL, trans fat and
dietary cholesterol also contribute significantly.
Major Food Sources of Trans Fat for American Adults
(Average Daily Trans Fat Intake is 5.8 Grams or 2.6 Percent of
cakes, cookies, crackers, pies, bread, etc.
potato chips, corn chips, popcorn
Data based on FDA’s economic analysis for the final trans fatty acid labeling
rule, "Trans Fatty Acids in Nutrition Labeling, Nutrient Content Claims, and Health Claims" (July
Are All Fats the
Simply put: No. Fat is a major source of energy for the body and aids in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E,
and K and carotenoids. Both animal- and plant-derived food products contain fat, and when eaten in moderation, fat
is important for proper growth, development, and maintenance of good health. As a food ingredient, fat provides
taste, consistency, and stability and helps you feel full. In addition, parents should be aware that fats are an
especially important source of calories and nutrients for infants and toddlers (up to 2 years of age), who have the
highest energy needs per unit of body weight of any age group.
While unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and
polyunsaturated) are beneficial when consumed in moderation, saturated and trans fats are not. Saturated fat and
trans fat raise LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. Dietary cholesterol also contributes to heart disease.
Therefore, it is advisable to choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol as part of a healthful
What Can You Do About Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, and Cholesterol?
When comparing foods, look at the Nutrition
Facts panel, and choose the food with the lower amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Health
experts recommend that you keep your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol as low as possible while
consuming a nutritionally adequate diet. However, these experts recognize that eliminating these three components
entirely from your diet is not practical because they are unavoidable in ordinary diets.
Here are some practical tips you can use every
day to keep your consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol low while consuming a nutritionally
Check the Nutrition
Facts panel to compare foods because the serving sizes are generally
consistent in similar types of foods. Choose foods lower in saturated
fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. For saturated fat
and cholesterol, keep in mind that 5 percent of the Daily Value (%DV) or less is low and 20
percent or more is high. (There is no %DV for trans fat.)
Choose alternative fats. Replace saturated
and trans fats in your diet with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats do
not raise LDL cholesterol levels and have health benefits when eaten in moderation. Sources of
monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oils.Sources of polyunsaturated fats include soybean oil,
corn oil, sunflower oil 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 fat
and trans fat 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, which are being studied to
determine if they offer protection against heart disease.
Choose lean meats, such as poultry without the skin and not fried and
lean beef and pork, not fried, with visible fat trimmed.
Ask before you order when eating out. A good tip to remember is to ask
which fats are being used in the preparation of your food when eating or ordering out.
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 fruits and vegetables.
More about Trans Fat
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