Trans Fat Consumption Is Down, But We Need to Do Better
Research shows trans fats are bad for your heart and your brain, but there are some simple ways to keep them out of your diet.
Trans fats have made headlines in recent years as studies continue to show the harmful effects of these commonly used ingredients. The good news is that trans fat intake appears to be declining in the U.S. However, a report in the Journal of the American Heart Association also notes that Americans are still consuming too much. Our diets still have too much saturated fat, too, the report states.
The food industry and city, state and federal officials are working to restrict trans fat use. Katherine Patton, RD, clinical dietitian with Preventive Cardiology at Cleveland Clinic, believes trans fats are on their way out.
Trans fats are found in many foods, and are used because they help prolong the shelf life of many products and give foods a desirable taste and texture. But they have been shown to increase levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and decrease levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. A recent study presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions also suggests that high trans fat intake is associated with memory problems.
“I think there’s a chance trans fats will be banned,” Patton says. “But fortunately, many companies, manufacturers and even cities are being proactive and no longer using them or are banning their use.”
Making the switch
To help reduce your consumption of trans fats, choose alternatives to products you use every day. For example, Patton recommends choosing olive oil, canola oil, or trans fat-free tub margarine instead of solid margarine. Another simple switch is to use low-fat or skim milk or natural cream instead of flavored or powdered coffee cream products. Non-dairy creamers contain trans fats. One-percent milk can still be part of a heart-healthy diet and offer a richer flavor than skim milk.
“Instead of pre-packaged baked goods or chocolate or yogurt-covered bars, choose homemade desserts, non-chocolate-coated whole-grain granola bars and fruit,” Patton says.
Read the nutrition labels and choose healthier restaurant options to help you get unhealthy fats out of your diet.