The total amount of fat you eat, whether high or low, isn’t really linked with disease. What really matters is the type of fat you eat.
The “bad” fats—saturated and trans fats—increase the risk for certain diseases. The “good” fats—monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—lower disease risk. The key to a healthy diet is to substitute good fats for bad fats—and to avoid trans fats.
Although it is still important to limit the amount of cholesterol you eat, especially if you have diabetes, dietary cholesterol isn’t nearly the villain it’s been portrayed to be. Cholesterol in the bloodstream is what’s most important. And the biggest influence on blood cholesterol level is the mix of fats in your diet—not the amount of cholesterol you eat from food.
It is only the trans fat created by the partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils that we are concerned about and that should be eliminated completely from your diet.
Partially hydrogenated oils are commonly found in processed foods like commercial baked products such as cookies, cakes and crackers, and even in bread. They are also used as cooking oils (called “liquid shortening”) for frying in restaurants.
Top nutritionists at Harvard have concluded that trans fat could be responsible for an many as 30,000 premature coronary deaths per year.
On the subject of trans fat, the AHA recommends that your daily intake of trans fats be limited to 1 percent of total calories, which is equivalent to roughly 2 to 2.5 grams of trans fat per day.
How much trans fat is in the products that we eat?
How much trans fat do we consume in a day? Some of us are consuming virtually none, because we are being extremely selective about what we eat. Some of us are consuming in excess of 15 grams of trans fat per day. If that sounds unbelievable, look at the following figures:
* One McDonald’s large fries contains 8 grams of trans fat.
* A McDonald’s apple pie contains 4.5 grams of trans fat.
* Four Girl Scout shortbread cookies contain 1.5 grams of trans fat.
Incidentally, don’t think that the problem is only at McDonald’s or other fast-food chains. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many other restaurants, including “quality” restaurants, fry their food in partially hydrogenated oil and served baked goods containing partially hydrogenated fat. Many of them serve larger portions with more trans fat than McDonald’s.
How much are you consuming?
What not to eat
Here are six rules to help you avoid consuming partially hydrogenated oils.
1. Don’t eat any product which has the words “partially hydrogenated” or “shortening” in the ingredients list.
2. If the label says zero trans fats, don’t believe it. If the words “partially hydrogenated” or “shortening” are in the ingredients list, it DOES contain trans fat.
3. Be careful when consuming products with labels from outside the United States. Sometimes they contain partially hydrogenated oil but it’s not on the label.
4. In restaurants, bakeries, and other eateries, ask whether they use partially hydrogenated oil for frying or baking or in salad dressings. If they say they use vegetable oil, ask whether it is partially hydrogenated. Don’t be shy about asking. Assume that all unlabeled baked and fried goods contain partially hydrogenated oil, unless you know otherwise.
5. Keep saturated fat intake low too. This is very important.
6. Remember that polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fats are good fats.
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