The Truth About Trans Fat

What is trans fat?
Trans fat is a fatty acid formed through a chemical process called hydrogenation. Hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to reconfigure the fat molecules into solid fat. Some food manufacturers use partial hydrogenation because it increases shelf life and flavor stability. Trans fat is most commonly found in some of America’s favorite processed foods: baked goods, crackers, snack foods, shortening and some margarines. Natural levels of trans fat can be found in meat and dairy products, but there is no scientific consensus to conclude that trace levels of natural trans fat causes dietary harm.


Why is trans fat unhealthy?
Trans fat raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol) and reduces high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol). For more information on LDL and HDL cholesterol, please see “Cholesterol – The good, the bad, and the difference,” .


How much trans fat is too much?
The American Heart Association recommends that we eat no more than 2g of trans fat per day. Purchasing foods labeled “0 g trans fat” is one strategy for controlling your intake of this unhealthy fat. But you should know that nutrition labels don’t tell the whole story.


The FDA guidelines allow manufacturers of any food product with less than 0.5g of trans fat to list “0g” on the nutrition label. With that much leeway, it’s hard to know exactly how much trans fat you’re eating. For example, just two tablespoon servings of a margarine containing partially hydrogenated oils, but labeled 0g trans fats, can contain up to almost 1g of trans fat. Eat a few pieces of toast at breakfast with one of these margarines, and you’re half way to the AHA daily limit by the end of breakfast.


So how can you break down the food labels and keep your trans fat intake as low as possible?


First, look for “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils and shortening on the ingredients list, and leave those foods on the shelf. Second, switch to Smart Balance® Buttery Spread. Of all the leading brands of margarines and spreads, Smart Balance® is the closest to 0 grams of trans fat that nature allows. With only naturally occurring traces of trans fat and no hydrogenated oils, Smart Balance® Buttery Spread not only helps you control the amount of trans fat you eat, it actually can support healthy cholesterol levels that are already within the normal range when at least 2/3 of your daily fat intake comes from this product or our food plan. The Smart Balance™ Food Plan is designed to limit total fat intake to 30% of calories consumed. By following the plan, saturated fat intake is limited to 10% of that, or 20g per day; dietary cholesterol remains under 300mg per day; and trans fatty acids are minimized. In addition, regular exercise is essential to good health. Please see the nutrition information of Smart Balance® Buttery Spread for fat and saturated fat content.

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