The Sneak Attack Of Trans-Fats
by Meri Raffetto

So what are they? Trans fats are the result of a process called hydrogenation where
they take relatively healthy oil and turn it into a solid form to help prolong the shelf life
and freshness of the product. When these fats become solid, our bodies treat them
more like saturated fats. Evidence shows that consumption of both saturated fat and
trans fat can increase our LDL ("bad") cholesterol that increases the risk of coronary
artery disease. There is also some evidence to support that trans fats may actually
decrease our HDL ("good") cholesterol. Nearly 13 million Americans suffer from
coronary artery disease and more than 500,000 die each year from causes related to
coronary artery disease. Heart Disease is the number one cause of death for both
men and women in the United States.

Unfortunately, trans fats have been a "hidden" fat for years. They are very popular in
fast food chains because they are inexpensive to produce, easy to use, and they
don't spatter. The reality is? it is in everything from crackers to breads to cereals and
therefore, people who thought they were making good food choices may have been
adding more fat to their diet than they anticipated.

Here are some samples of the surprise attack of trans fats:

  1. Spreads. Margarine and shortening are loaded with trans fats. Stick margarine
    has 2.8 grams of trans fat per tablespoon Shortening has 4.2 grams of trans fat
    per tablespoon Tip: look for soft tub margarines that say "no trans fats" on the
  2. Soups. Ramen noodles and soup cups contain very high levels of trans fats
  3. Cereals. Many cereals that would other wise be healthy choices contain the
    "hidden fats"
  4. Crackers and popcorn
  5. Many popular pancake and waffle mixes

The good news

Under new FDA regulations, by January 1, 2006, consumers will be able to find trans
fat listed on nutrition labels under the line for saturated fat. You won't see a percent
daily value because trans fats are not a natural food and we do not need them in our
diet for any reason. The more you can limit your trans fat intake, the better.
Manufacturers will start phasing in the new labels before that deadline.

More good news is that public awareness of trans fats has already initiated some
companies to change their ways. Frito Lay has said that they will remove trans fats
from Doritos, Cheetos, and Tostitos. McDonalds has reported that they will remove
½ of the trans fats from their French fries. These foods will still fall into the "once in a
while" category but removing trans fats will definitely help.

Until the new labels are available, the best way to know if your favorite foods have
trans fats is to read the ingredients list. If you see the terms "Hydrogenated or
Partially Hydrogenated oil" then it contains trans fats. You can also bet that any
commercial baked goods including cakes, pies, and donuts will also be loaded with the
"hidden fat".

Awareness is your best defense in limiting trans fats from your diet. Read your labels
and make your choices wisely.

© Meri Raffetto RD, 2004

About The Author

Meri Raffetto, owner of Real Living Nutrition Services, is a Registered Dietitian and a
recognized professional in the area of nutrition and wellness. She has received a
bachelor's degree in both nutrition and psychology and has extensive experience in
nutrition counseling and medical nutrition therapy. She offers individual nutrition
counseling and has developed one of the only non-diet weight management programs
available on the internet. For more information or to sign up for Real Living's free
nutrition newsletter, visit
If you are like most people, you
are probably confused about
trans fats. What are they? Which
foods have them? What is the
health risk?

The truth is, trans fats are
everywhere. They are lurking on
the shelves in almost every aisle
of our grocery stores. Just when
you think that bag of microwave
popcorn was a healthy choice for
a snack... it might not be. Not
because of the popcorn itself but
because of what has been added
to it.
Copyright ©
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The content on
this website is for educational purposes only.  Please consult with your physician before using natural
remedies and before making any drastic changes to your diet or exercise
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