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Trans Fat Labeling Gets Tricky
Date:6/30/2008

hat they are making the decision."

More information

To learn more about trans fats, visit the American Heart Association.

Avoiding Trans Fat

Dietitian Lona Sandon, national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and chair-elect of the Nutrition Educators of Health Professions, offers up the following tips on trans fats:

What is a trans fat?

"A trans fat is a type of man-made fat in which the chemical bonds of a vegetable oil, normally liquid at room temperature, are changed so that it becomes solid at room temperature and more shelf-stable," she said. The fats' chemical bonds become "twisted," hence the name "trans." Natural trans fats can occur as well, but they are not thought to be harmful.

Why are these compounds so bad for us?

According to Sandon, man-made trans fats have been shown to greatly boost levels of harmful LDL cholesterol, helping clog arteries with fatty plaques. Many nutritionists believe trans fats are even more dangerous than saturated fats.

How can I avoid trans fats?

"Trans fats are typically found in processed foods, particularly snack foods or bakery items," Sandon said. These would include cookies, crackers, pre-packaged donuts, muffins, even chewy granola bars. Always check labels. Better yet, stick to fresh, whole foods, vegetables, grains, nuts, lean meats, low-fat dairy and soft tub buttery spreads made with liquid vegetable oil.

If a product says "low" or "zero" trans fat, is it good for me?

Not necessarily. "You still must think about what else is in, or not in, the food," Sandon said. "The words [no] trans fat or low fat does not mean healthy."

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