Hardly a day goes by when you don’t hear something about trans fat – either on the television news, in a magazine or a newspaper, or maybe even a conversation at work.
You may have heard that some cities have passed legislation restricting the use of trans fats in restaurants, and many other cities are considering passing similar legislation. Some states and cities are considering legislation that would require food establishments to list the amount of trans fat in their menu items.
We all know that trans fat is bad for you…it tends to raise your cholesterol levels, which in turn increases your risk of heart disease. Some scientists believe that trans fat actually raises your cholesterol levels more than saturated fats.
What is trans fat?
A trans fat is produced when a food manufacturer takes a vegetable oil and adds hydrogen to it. In other words, liquid oil is made into solid fat, such as shortening and hard margarine / butter. This process, called hydrogenation, increases the shelf life and the flavor stability of food containing these products. Trans fats are found in food such as crackers, candy, cookies, and fried foods.
Since January 1, 2006, the FDA has required that food labels state the amount of trans fat in each serving. However, there is a loophole in this regulation that many consumers are not aware of. If the trans fat in a food item is less than 0.5 grams per serving, then the amount of trans fat does not have to be listed on the food label. Therefore, it is important to read the ingredients on the label to see if it really does contain trans fat. The ingredient list will reference shortening or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
Corinne is a degreed nutritionist and award-winning writer. Visit her web site at www.thefoodcop.com.