In recent years, you have probably heard a lot about trans fats, a type of fat that has been shown to lower levels of HDL, or good cholesterol, and raise levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol. The American Heart Association, or AHA, advises you to reduce your intake of these fats to lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Trans fats result when you add hydrogen to vegetable oil—this creates a more stable fat that keeps foods fresher longer and extends the shelf life of packaged goods. These fats also occur naturally in small amounts in some foods. The AHA suggests you limit intake to less than one percent of total caloric intake daily.
Commercially Prepared Foods
Many commercially prepared foods like cookies, cakes, frozen dinners, chips and crackers contain trans fats, as do shortening and many types of margarine. If the list of ingredients names any sort of partially hydrogenated oil, margarine or shortening, that food contains this dangerous fat for sure. Look for healthier brands that include more natural ingredients and avoid trans fats altogether. If you want to make a serious effort to avoid these fats, increase your intake of fresh, whole foods rather than getting a majority of your nutrition from processed and prepared foods.
Fast foods represent one of the richest sources of trans fats. Most establishments prepare the food in partially hydrogenated oil to maximize freshness. The University of Pennsylvania Health Education Center notes that a medium serving of fries contains a whopping 14.5 grams of trans fats. Movie popcorn also contains trans fat.
Trans fats occur naturally in the digestive system of many animals, including cows. This means that dairy products like butterfat and many types of meat will contain these fats, though in much smaller amounts than foods prepared with the industrially produced versions. The American Heart Association notes these naturally occurring trans fats do not appear to exhibit the same health risks as their manufactured counterparts.