Avoiding Artery Clogging Trans Fats

Last summer in the U.S., the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine issued a report saying that there is no safe dietary level of artery-clogging trans fat. Since it may be very difficult — especially for those eating dairy products and meat — not to eat some trans fat, the scientific body declined to set a “tolerable upper intake level”, which is the amount the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses to establish recommended daily allowances of various food components. Instead, the government is moving to require the listing of trans fat on food labels, something that the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has been pressing for since 1994.

“This is the first attempt by a panel of experts to set a safe intake for trans fat … what's surprising is they concluded the only safe intake of trans fat is zero,” says Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at CSPI.
She suggests a combined listing of trans fat and saturated fat with a combined daily upper limit. Both types of fat have been shown to contribute to heart disease.

Information posted on the FDA's website says the rule ultimately could prevent 6,300 to 12,800 cases of heart disease and 2,100 to 4,200 deaths a year.

Currently the only way to determine if a food contains trans fat is to look for “hydrogenated” on the ingredient list, which includes most processed foods —by some estimates, more than 40 percent of food on supermarket shelves. The most common source of trans fat is partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, in which liquid oil is turned into a solid. Margarine, shortening, and fried and baked foods contain a smorgasbord of trans fatty acids. Typically, the harder a margarine or cooking fat, the more trans fat it includes.

Products that list cold/expeller pressed oils, poly- or mono-unsaturated oils, olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil and other liquid oils likely will not have trans fat.

Most fast-food and family-style chain restaurants cook fries, chicken and other deep-fried foods in partially hydrogenated oil, which often comes in a solid block that is melted in the fryer. They also slather margarine on griddles for pancakes and grilled sandwiches.

Trans fat also occurs in beef and high-fat dairy products, because it is produced naturally in the gastrointestinal lining of cattle. Since it prolongs shelf life, trans fat is loved by commercial bakeries. Cakes and shortening-based frostings from supermarket bakeries are particularly trans-heavy. So are donuts, which can contain shortening in the dough and are also likely cooked in trans fat. Generally, the higher quality the baked good, the less trans fat, because more butter is used.

Breakfast cereals, breakfast bars, some energy bars, tortillas, microwave popcorn, fish sticks or other breaded frozen foods can all contain trans fat. So can some puddings and peanut butters, where it gives a creamier consistency.
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PHOTO (COLOR): Commercially baked pastries can be one of the worst sources of harmful trans fats.

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