Though many Americans are aware that trans fat poses health risks, only few can actually identify foods with high trans fat content.
A survey led by Dr. Robert H. Eckel of the University of Colorado revealed that only one in five Americans could identify three foods with high trans fat content, though a large percentage of the population, estimated at 80%, know that trans fat is unhealthy.
Public awareness on the health implications of trans fat does not even prevent Americans and other Western consumers from regulating their trans fat intake.
Confusion about the sources of fat and the best way to determine unhealthy fats exacerbate the trans fat dilemma.
Given these obstacles to trans fat food awareness, it’s no wonder that Eckel’s study reports that:
- only 21% of the 1,000 respondents know three trans fat sources;
- almost 50% of respondents couldn’t name at least one trans fat source;
- almost 30% can name only one trans fat source without referring to a list.
Checking Trans Fat and Saturated Fat Contents in Food Labels
Even if a nutrition fact label indicates zero trans fat content, it doesn’t always follow that the product is free from unhealthy fats. Health conscious consumers who only scan the trans fat section of nutrition table may not be aware that what they are buying are high in saturated fats , and thus as unhealthy as high trans fat diet. It is important to note that saturated fat, like trans fat, increases cholesterol; therefore, consumers must always check these two types of unhealthy fats.
Disclosure of fat content and partially hydrogenated oil should be more transparent with the passage of new food labeling regulations.
Trans fat increases LDL “bad” cholesterol and lower HDL “good” cholesterol. Like trans fat, saturated fat increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Moderation should be observed to ensure that saturated and trans fat just take the recommendation portion of daily diet.
Unfortunately, moderation in saturated fat intake is overlooked by many. Most people get 12.4% of their calories from saturated fat, which is twice as much as the recommended consumption.
Common Trans Fat Sources
Next time you encounter the following foods, be reminded of their high trans fat content:
- French fries
- Cookies (also rich in saturated fat)
- Vegetable shortening
- Hard margarine
- Pastries (also rich in saturated fat)
Trans-fat-free foods marketed by restaurants and manufacturers could not be less unhealthy. As much as possible, packaged foods high in trans-fat should be avoided, for many natural foods are already high in trans fat. As a matter of fact, 20% of trans fat consumption comes from natural food, not from oil or solid spread that’s processed to enhance palatability or lengthen shelf life.
For those who avoid manufactured foods to regulate trans fat intake, consumption of fatty natural foods such as meat and dairy products must be monitored as well. Take not also of the following food which is high in saturated fat.
- Whole milk
- Pastries (also rich in trans fat)
- Cookies (also rich in trans fat)
How to Lower Fat Intake
Make your diet plan attainable by following these two basic guidelines:
- Don’t deprive yourself of fatty foods. This will likely cause you to crave for more fat. Instead, eat fatty foods moderately.
- To be moderate, add more healthy foods to your diet; supplementing with a clinically proven fat binding or natural appetite suppressing products will also help.
When it comes to fat control, perhaps it is better to practice moderation rather than suppress natural appetite for fatty foods. Learning to moderately eat your favorite fatty food is certainly easier than avoiding them. Moderate consumption of fat means eating a doughnut or two and not a dozen, or a handful of chips rather than a family-sized serving.
Having self-discipline is critical to fat control. Those who lack self-control cannot commit to a healthy diet as they let themselves succumb to their unhealthy food habits. Such people may find it helpful to submit themselves to “health authority” such as trainers or physicians who will set dietary restrictions, prescribe exercises and monitor progress. Being accountable to an outside authority helps in pushing these people out of their comfort zone, enabling them to avoid unhealthy foods or adopt lifestyle changes which they cannot do otherwise.
Regulate your trans fat level while enjoying your favorite fatty foods in moderation alongside healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Just remember to have a well-balanced diet consisting mainly of healthy foods.