Trans fat, also called trans-fatty acids, is the product of adding hydrogen to vegetable oil through hydrogenation, which makes it solid and extends its shelf life. Some medical experts consider trans fat the worst type of fat as it poses a higher risk of heart disease than saturated fat. Although saturated fat raises total cholesterol levels, trans fat goes a step further by raising our bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowering our good cholesterol (HDL). People with high levels of LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol have a higher risk of heart disease, the leading killer of both men and women.
Beef, lamb and full-fat dairy products have small amounts of trans fat. However, the amount of trans fat is higher in commercial baked goods such as cookies, cakes and crackers, fried foods such as French fries and doughnuts, and shortenings and margarines.
Since January 1, 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires food manufacturers to list trans fat on food labels. This ruling has resulted in many food manufacturers reinventing products to reduce or eliminate trans fat and labeling their food as zero trans fat. However, there still might be traces of trans fat because the FDA allows the “zero” label when the amount is 0.5 grams or less of trans fat per serving. If the label lists trans fat as zero, look in the ingredients list for “partially hydrogenated,” which means that there is trans fat in the product. To protect your heart, choose foods that use healthy fats such as olive oil and that are low in saturated fats.