Asked by Kevin Poffenberger, Bozeman, Montana
I am trying to eliminate trans fats out of my diet completely, but it is pretty tough with all the products that contain partially hydrogenated oils. If partially hydrogenated oils are not in the label, then the producers mask it with mono- or diglycerides. I am wondering what an acceptable level of consumption is, and the overall effect, and also would like to know if fully hydrogenated oils are bad for you.
Diet and Fitness Expert
Dr. Melina Jampolis
Physician Nutrition Specialist
Hi, Kevin. I think it is a terrific idea to attempt to reduce or eliminate trans fats from your diet as much as possible. Trans fats, also known as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats or oils, are one of the real villains of nutrition. They start out as healthier polyunsaturated fats, but through chemical processing known as hydrogenation, they turn into solid, unhealthy trans fats.
Trans fats not only raise LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) like saturated fat, they also lower HDL (good cholesterol), thereby doubling your risk of heart disease. They also increase another heart disease marker called Lp(a) and can increase blood clotting and inflammation, which can increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
While there is no consensus as to safe levels, the American Heart Association suggests limiting your intake of trans fats to less than 1 percent of your total calories for optimal health. If you are eating 2,000 calories per day, this represents less than 2 grams of trans fats per day.
It is important to pay attention to the ingredient list and serving size of foods because a company can legally call a product "trans fat free" if it has less than 0.5 grams per serving. So if the serving size is one small cookie, and each serving contains 0.47 grams of trans fat, if you eat four cookies, you will quickly surpass your maximum suggested daily intake. I recommend looking at the ingredient list, and if you see the word hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated near the top of the ingredient list, look for an alternative product or brand, or make sure to limit yourself to one serving at a time.
Fully hydrogenated fats do not contain trans fats but can be high in saturated fat, so they are safer but not necessarily healthy, and the word "fully" must be clearly stated in the ingredients list. Otherwise, assume that the product contains some trans fats.
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