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Beware trans fat: 6 ways to prevent it from sneaking into your diet

Beware trans fat: 6 ways to prevent it from sneaking into your diet

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There are good fats, there are bad fats and then there are trans fats.

First, trans fats are artificially processed, created by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil, making them solid at room temperature. Scientists do not know exactly how, but trans fats are linked to increases in LDL cholesterol, the bad kind, which is a major risk factor in the development of heart disease.

In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration required food manufacturers to remove trans fats from their products due to conclusive evidence that trans fats were related to decreased cardiovascular health. Even the beloved Oreo cookie had to undergo a makeover to continue to meet FDA standards.

Despite these changes, the word “hydrogenated” has continued to linger on ingredient lists of updated products. This word refers to the presence of trans fat, and you will find it listed on some of your favorite products such as liquid or powdered coffee creamers, peanut butter and some margarine. It turns out the FDA allows manufacturers to claim 0 grams of trans fat on the Nutrition Facts label as long as the product contains less than half a gram of trans fat per serving.

Fortunately, in 2015, the FDA decided even half a gram of trans fats is too much, and set new food industry standards to remove trans fats completely from foods by Jan. 1, 2020.

In the meantime, be proactive in improving your heart health and use the following tips to eliminate trans fats from your diet today.

» Raid your pantry for products that have the word “hydrogenated” in the ingredient list. You will typically find it in more processed, packaged foods. Replace these products with foods that do not have that word listed.

» Scour the ingredient list of your favorite margarine. Even if the claim “trans fat free” is on the container, you must check the ingredient for hydrogenated oils. Often, a light version of your brand of choice will be available without trans fat.

» Swap out regular peanut butter with a natural kind. You do not have to grind your own. Most major brands have natural varieties now that do not require stirring and are comparably priced.

» Go for half and half over flavored creamers in your coffee. If you must have a little sweetness in your morning cup of joe, stick with the brand Nestle Bliss, which uses only natural ingredients.

» Make baked goods from scratch. Many store-bought cookies, tub frostings, snack cakes and biscuit mixes contain trans fats. Simply making your favorites at home will reduce your intake.

» Mix up your own hot cocoa. Convenient pouches of hot cocoa contain trans fats. You can find easy recipes for hot cocoa all over the Internet or in most recipe books. With a few common ingredients you can warm up with a homemade hot chocolate that is so good you will not even miss the store-bought mix.

Niki Kubiak is a registered dietitian.

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