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Hidden Trans Fats – In Healthy Foods

David Hamilton

Emerging research continues to support concerns that trans-fat are far more dangerous than other forms of fat in our diet. The American Heart Association now recommends that healthy eaters limit their consumption of trans-fat to less than one-percent of the total daily caloric intake. In a 2,000 calorie diet this works out to just over 2.5 grams of trans fat per day.

No one would be surprised to learn that fast food can quickly outrun this limit. Under these guidelines, a single medium sized order of fries can easily contain over three days worth of trans-fat. What might come as more of a shock is the number of seemingly healthy foods that hide trans fat – usually in the form of partially hydrogenated oil.

US food labeling standards allow manufactures to round anything up to .5 grams down to zero. This is the same math that has give rise to zero calorie butter spray that lists vegetable oil as the first ingredient. Combining this with labels that brag about total fat content regardless of type, and trans-fat can hide in many seemingly healthy foods.

Peanut Butter

While high in calories, peanut butter is a good source of protein and keeps you feeling full. Many nutritionist often recommend pairing it with celery for satisfying and healthy snack. A close look at the label will show many brands contain a lot more than peanuts. In addition to added sugar, most varieties of peanut butter contain hydrogenated oil as well. Usually the amount is small enough to be legally listed as zero. Only the ingredient list gives it away.

Baked Whole Wheat Crackers

Providing fiber and prepared in a healthy way, baked wheat crackers make a great alternative to potato chips for a crunchy snack treat. Be careful though, just because they were not boiled in trans-fat laden oils doesn’t mean partially hydrogenated oils haven’t been added. Top with peanut butter and this seemingly smart snack puts you close to the half-way point for daily trans-fat intake.

Reduced Fat or Sugar Dairy Products

Butter has a bad reputation among healthy eaters. High in saturated fat and packing a major caloric punch, margarine is often perceived as a healthy alternative. Many brands tell you how much lower in total fat they are than butter. Checking the label will often reveal that while total fat is lower, but a single serving will often put you above the daily trans fat guidelines.

Margarine is not the only dairy to be weary of. At less than a hundred calories per serving, low-calorie pudding can quickly curb a carb craving. While they may have taken out much of the natural fat and sugar, manufactures frequently add in a little hydrogenated oil to help keep it formed up.

Frozen Vegetables

Not being subject to the nutrient destroying stress and added salt of the canning process, frozen veggies are favored by many. Getting them prepackaged in a low-fat sauce may seem like double win, but look closely. Once again the total fat may be low, but careful scrutiny can uncover trans-fat, often amounts high enough to require listing.

Given the vast number of hiding places, and the combined labeling and marketing practices, the only way to truly avoid trans-fat is to go label reading.

Health Disclaimer. Copyright ©2008. Published with permission.