What's So Bad About Trans Fats?

These dangerous fats lurk in lots of packaged foods. Find out what they are and how to avoid them.
Related To:
115927455

115927455

Trans Fats

Photo by: Jonathan Vasata

Jonathan Vasata

Trans Fats

When New York City banned trans fats from restaurants in 2006, it shined a spotlight on these dangerous fats. Although there are some trans fats that occur naturally (and that you don’t have to worry about), most trans fats (the ones you should avoid) are formed by taking unsaturated fats — which are fluid at room temperature — and turning them into solid fats through processing. This is done by adding hydrogen to the fat in a process known as partial hydrogenation.

What Do They Do?
Trans fats are particularly pernicious to your health because they raise your bad LDL cholesterol and also lower your good HDL cholesterol. (Saturated fats — the kind trans fats are trying to mimic — raise both your LDL and HDL.) That takes a toll on your heart. Just a few extra grams of trans fat a day (about 4 grams in a 2,000-calorie diet) can increase your risk of heart disease by 23 percent!

How to Avoid Them
Eating minimally processed whole foods is the best way to avoid trans fats. And when you are buying processed foods, check the labels. On most packaged food labels, there’s now a line for trans fat. Looking for items with 0 grams of trans fat is a start, but it’s not enough. Labeling laws allow food manufacturers to claim “0 grams of trans fat” if the item has less than a 1/2 gram of trans fat per serving. And that adds up if you eat multiple servings. To truly avoid trans fats, you need to read the ingredient list. If you see the words “partially hydrogenated,” the product contains trans fat. And by the way, regulation works — a 2012 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that New Yorkers have dropped their intake of trans fats without increasing the amount of saturated fats they eat since the law went into effect.

Kerri-Ann is a registered dietitian who writes on food and health trends. Find more of her work at kerriannjennings.com or follow her on Twitter @kerriannrd or Facebook.

Keep Reading

Next Up

What Nutrients You Absolutely Need When Pregnant

Wondering whether you’re getting the nutrients you need during your pregnancy? Find out five nutrients you should be getting and how to get them.

Why You Need Iron

Find out why this mineral is so essential, and how you can make sure you're getting enough.

Eddie Jackson's Fitness Do's and Don'ts

Get chef, trainer and former NFL player Eddie Jackson's tips for staying fit.

Robert Irvine's Healthy Tips

Fitness and healthy eating are a huge part of Worst Cooks in America and Dinner: Impossible host Robert Irvine's daily routine. Here are his top dos and don'ts for delicious, healthy meals.

Importance of Healthy Fats

How much fat should you eat each day, and what does it do? Find out.

Juicing and Blending Basics

From using a juicer to picking the best ingredients, here's the everything guide to fresh fruit and vegetable drinks.

Why You Need Protein

This important nutrient helps your body build and repair itself. Find out how much you need each day.

Why You Need Calcium

This important mineral does more than build bones. Find out why you need it and how much you need.

Why You Need Omega-3s in Your Diet

Omega-3s have been getting a lot of attention. Find out why you need omega-3s and how to get enough.

Eddie Jackson's Pre- and Post-Workout Snacks

Find out which healthy snacks chef, trainer and former NFL player Eddie Jackson recommends eating before and after a workout.

On TV

Get Cooking