Tips Trans Fats: Friend or Foe, Good or Bad?

Trans fatty acids are formed when unsaturated liquid vegetable oils are hydrogenated (hydrogen atoms are added) to create a product with a longer shelf life. Although trans fatty acids occur naturally in some animal fats, the majority of the trans fat we consume comes from packaged foods such as crackers, chips, and baked goods; fried foods; stick margarine; and shortening.

Current research shows that trans fatty acids can increase your risk for heart disease by raising LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowering HDL (good) cholesterol (see the section

“Concerned About Cholesterol?” following this sidebar for an explanation of these terms). How can you decrease your intake of trans fatty acids? Try the following:
  • Minimize your consumption of processed foods containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated anything. Read the ingredient list on food labels; some products also list trans fats on the nutrition facts panel. By 2006, manufacturers will be required to list trans fats in grams on all products.
  • Go easy on the French fries and any other fried dishes when dining out. Some restaurants and fast food places fry foods in hydrogenated vegetable oils that contain trans fatty acids.
  • If you use margarine, choose a spray, squeeze, or soft tub variety over stick mar- garine. Many of these products are labeled trans fat free.
  • Prepare more meals and snacks at home with whole, fresh foods!
Type of Fat
Mono- unsaturated Fat 
  • Function : Structural component of cell membranes, especially the coating of nerve cells
  • Food Sources : Most plant sources; olive oil, canola oil, and peanut oil; nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives
  • Health Effects : May decrease LDL-(bad) cholesterol; no effect on HDL-(good) cholesterol
  • Tips : Substitute these fats for saturated fats whenever possible.

Poly- unsaturated Fat
  • Function : Precursor for hormones; component of cell membranes; essential for normal growth and development
  • Food Sources : 
Omega-3: salmon, mackerel, tuna, walnuts, flaxseed and flaxseed oil, canola oil.
Health effects : May lower LDL-, no effect on HDL- cholesterol.
The tips is : These fats may also help reduce inflammation and blood clotting.

Omega-6: safflower, corn, sunflower and soybean oils, mayonnaise, commercial salad dressing. 
Health effects : May lower both LDL- and HDL- cholesterol.
The tips is : Most of us get plenty of omega-6 fatty acids; focus on omega-3s instead.
Saturated Fat
  • Function : Structural component of cell membranes; provides desirable taste and texture in foods
  • Food Sources : Most animal foods, whole and reduced fat milk products, many desserts, baked goods, snack foods, coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil
  • Health Effects : May increase LDL- and HDL- cholesterol
  • Tips : Limit this fat by choosing skim milk products, lean meats, and more plant-based proteins.
Trans Fat
  • Function : No essential functions
  • Food Sources : Any food containing the ingredients “hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated” oils, most processed or packaged foods, stick margarine, fast foods
  • Health Effects : May increase LDL- and decrease HDL- cholesterol
  • Tips : Try to reduce intake of trans fats as much as possible; prepare more meals and snacks at home.

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