Ways to Limit Your Trans Fat

nutrition labelTrans fatty acids, more popularly known as trans fats, result from a process known as hydrogenation. These fats are formed when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil. Trans fats are commonly used by food manufacturers to extend the storage life of their products and improve the flavor and texture of food at cheaper costs.

Trans fats act similarly to saturated fats in the body in that it causes blood cholesterol levels to rise. Trans fatty acids increase the risks of heart disease by raising bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and lowering the good cholesterol levels (HDL). Research has found that trans fats have many adverse health effects, relating to other illness like cancer, diabetes, and obesity, lowering a person’s immune system, and also affecting a woman’s reproduction.

One the average, a person consumes around 5.8 grams of trans fat in a day. Much of these are found in bread, cookies, and cakes. It can also be found in other products such as potato and corn chips, popcorn, margarines, donuts, crackers, cereals and candies. French fries and food fried in partially hydrogenated oil and other animal and dairy products also contain trans fats.

All food companies are required to list trans fat content on nutrition labels. But there is no suggested safety limit on the daily intake of trans fat. Nonetheless, more doctors and nutritionists recommend a lower trans fat diet for health reasons. Here are some ways to help you limit the intake of trans fat in your body:

Practice "label shopping." Check the Nutrition Facts panel of products and look at the percent daily value (%DV) for saturated fats and cholesterol. There is actually no % DV for trans fat but always choose items that are low in these two. As a general guideline, 5% DV or less is low while 20% DV and more is high. Also watch your calorie intake, as fats are usually high in calories.

Choose alternative fats. Monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats do not increase LDL levels and have health benefits when consumed in moderation. Good sources of monosaturated fats include canola and olive oils while polyunsaturated fats can be found in soybean, corn, and sunflower oils and also fish and nuts.

Opt for vegetable oil and soft margarine. These are better choices as the amount of saturated and trans fat and also cholesterol are significantly lower than those found in hard margarine, solid shortening, and animal fats like butter.

Eat fish. Compared to meat, most fish contain lower saturated fat. Some fish also contain omega-3 fatty acids which protects the heart from diseases. Such fish include tuna, sardines, mackerel, and salmon.

Go for lean, fat-free and low fat meat, poultry and milk products. For healthier dietary choices, try skinless poultry, and lean beef and pork with the fat trimmed off. Add vegetables in your diet. And instead of frying, why not try baking, broiling or grilling and even steaming or suatéeing for a healthier food preparation.

Ask about the preparation of the food before ordering. When eating out, you may ask about the fats and oil used in the preparation of your food. Be particular and suggest that high-fat condiments be put on hold or if not, decreased in amount.

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