Essential Fats

Fats are part of a healthy diet, and certain fats (Essential Fatty Acids) need to be consumed from the food you eat in order to maintain a healthy human being. These are often referred to as ‘good’ fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated). You find these fats in:

  • cold water fish (trout, tuna, salmon)
  • nuts and seeds (walnuts,almonds, chia)
  • plant based oils (olive, flax seed, grape seed).

Saturated Fats

Then there are the ‘bad’ fats (saturated). Saturated fats get a bad reputation, because eating too much of them leads to major problems with your health (metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, obesity and atherosclerosis). Still these fats exist in nature and in limited daily amounts they help maintain a healthy body. These fats occur naturally in:

  • meat (beef, pork, lamb)
  • whole dairy (milk, cheese)
  • some plant products (coconuts, coconut oil).

Trans Fats

There is one more fat that is put into foods which does not really occur naturally, has zero nutritional value and highly dangerous – TRANS FATS. These fats were produced in a lab for commercial food manufacturers to boost profits. The process of creating them is called hydrogenation, and these will be found inside the ingredients under the term hydrogenated oil, or partially hydrogenated oil.

How Trans Fats are Hidden on Nutrition Labels

Now the public became aware of this and Trans Fats have their own listing in the nutrition facts to help you avoid them. Some cities (New York, Seattle, Philadelphia) and even states (California) have gone so far as to have banned the use of trans fats in restaurants to avoid unknown consumption while dining out. Still, here is a little known fact that might have you consuming trans fats even though you see 0g on the Nutrition Facts label of a product. The FDA has stated, “Food manufacturers are allowed to list amounts of trans fat with less than 0.5 gram (½ g) as 0 (zero) on the Nutrition Facts label. As a result, consumers may see a few products that list 0 gram trans fat on the label, while the ingredient list will have “shortening” or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on it. This means the food contains very small amounts (less than 0.5 g) of trans fat per serving.”

While this seems like a very small amount, clever companies know how to manipulate serving sizes to have labels appear more healthy while still saving money using trans fat in their products. So while a serving of cookies for a normal person might be 3-4 and this serving would have around 1.5g to 2.0g of trans fats, reducing the serving size to 1 cookie would remove that ‘label’. The only way to avoid this deadly fat is to read the ingredients, and if you see the words ‘partially hydrogenated’ or ‘hydrogenated’ just put the package back down, and make a mental note. Finally as a general rule of thumb, be cautious while dining out. I would highly recommend avoiding all deep fried foods as there is a good chance there are some trans fats in the oil.

Sources:
http://www.livestrong.com/article/27454-list-good-fat-foods/

http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm064904.htm
Kurzweil and Grossman. Transcend. Rodale,2009. Print.