Manufacturers produce trans fats by converting liquid oils into solid fats in a process called hydrogenation. These fats are popular because they increase the shelf life and flavor of processed foods, but have been found to be unhealthy when consumed in large quantities. Some trans fats are found naturally in butter, cheese, beef and other animal-based products, but are never found in fruits, vegetables or whole grains.
- Skill level:
Check labels on foods such as vegetable shortenings, margarines, crackers, cookies, snack foods and fried foods. These items often have the highest amounts of trans fats.
Read the Nutrition Facts label on the products. New labels have a specific "Trans Fat" section under "Total Fat." This label tells how many grams of trans fat are in each serving.
Look for words "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" in the ingredients list. These words indicate trans fats.
Compare the amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol along with trans fats to get the best health information. Pay attention to labels claiming "Trans Fat Free." While packaging tells you about the trans fat content, remember to check the rest of the nutrition facts to determine whether it is a healthy choice.
Cook with olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats to assure you eat a healthy diet that is mostly trans fat free. You may never be able to completely stay away from trans fats, saturated fats and cholesterol, but you can control the amount you consume.
Contact the food manufacturer for a full disclosure of nutrition facts, and ask restaurants for trans fat content. Many restaurants are becoming totally trans fat free and trying a healthier approach to cooking. Be willing to find out the information you need to know.