The Skinny On Fat

The FDA has mandated that nutrition labels – effective Jan. 1, 2006 – list trans fat content underneath the saturated fat content, which this example shows.

Doughnuts, french fries, fried chicken, cookies. Other than just being tasty, as well as readily available at fast-food and truck stop eateries, these foods have one major thing in common.

They contain a relatively high amount of trans fatty acids, also known as trans fat, which according to recent findings are as bad as or worse than saturated fat. Trans fatty acids are made during partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils, which increases the shelf life and flavor stability of the food.

Trans fatty acid consumption has been shown to elevate blood levels of low-density lipoprotein, the so-called bad cholesterol, nearly as much as saturated fatty acids. Unlike saturated fats, trans fatty acids also lower levels of high-density lipoprotein, the “good” cholesterol.

Trans fatty acids have been targeted by the Food and Drug Administration for having a direct correlation with coronary heart disease – the leading cause of death in the United States. The FDA has mandated that nutrition labels list trans fat content beginning Jan. 1, 2006.

You don’t want to cut fat completely out of your diet. Fat makes skin and body oils, regulates hormones, insulates internal organs, transports fat-soluble vitamins, helps repair damaged tissue, fights infections and provides a source of energy.

To keep your fats in check:

KNOW YOUR FATS. In addition to trans fat and saturated fat, there are polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, which are known as the “good” fats. They do not promote the formation of artery-clogging fatty deposits the way saturated fats do.

READ THE LABELS. Until the trans fat label change goes into effect, look for “hydrogenated.” And just because a label claims “low fat” or “fat-free,” you can’t eat the whole box of cookies. Products can still make claims of low saturated fat without considering trans fat. “Saturated fat free,” however, does mean less than 0.5 grams each of saturated fat and trans fat per serving.

LIMIT YOUR PORTIONS and know in general which foods contain saturated fats and trans fats. If you know foods have a high amount of the bad fats, limit the serving size -especially in the buffet line – even if you can’t cut it out of your diet completely. The typical serving size for most foods is smaller than the palm of your hand.

WATCH YOUR CALORIES. Foods that are high in calories are usually high in fat. There are 9 calories in each gram of fat, and fat contains more than twice the number of calories in protein or carbohydrates. And even foods that are low fat can have lots of sugar, which means lots of calories, so it’s good to limit those foods, too.


TRANS FAT: Stick margarine, vegetable shortenings, crackers, cookies, french fries, pastries, desserts

SATURATED: Dairy, beef, lamb, pork, processed meats, coconut oil,
vegetable shortening


POLYUNSATURATED: Fish, vegetable oils, corn oil, canola oil, walnuts

MONOUNSATURATED: Olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, almonds, cashews, avocadoes


Did you know the correct serving size for a steak should be about the size of a deck of cards? For interactive information about portion sizes, go to, click Interactive Tools and Serving Size Surprise.

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