THE "OTHER" BAD FAT

Trans fatty acids are even worse for your health than the saturated fats in sour cream, butter, and lard, we hear from nutrition expert Suzanne Havala Hobbs, Dr. PH, Rd. According to the National Academy of Sciences, trans fatty acids increase your risk of heart attack by raising "bad" LDL cholesterol and lowering levels of protective HDL cholesterol as much or more so than do saturated fats. There is no safe level of intake. Besides being present in high-fat dairy products, trans fats are in foods containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetables oils, such as cakes, pies and cookies...and fast-food french fries, chicken and other deep-fried foods.

AHA Recommendation

Because butter is rich in both saturated fat and cholesterol, it's potentially a highly atherogenic food (a food that causes the arteries to be blocked). Most margarine is made from vegetable fat and provides no dietary cholesterol. The more liquid the margarine, i.e. tub or liquid forms, the less hydrogenated it is and the fewer trans fatty acids it contains. On the basis of current data, the American Heart Association recommends that consumers follow these tips:

  • Use naturally occurring, unhydrogenated oil such as canola or olive oil when possible.
  • Look for processed foods made without hydrogenated or saturated fat.
  • Use margarine as a substitute for butter, and choose soft margarines (liquid or tub varieties) over harder, stick form. Shop for margarine with no more than 2 grams of saturated fat per teaspoon and with liquid vegetable oil as the first ingredient.

The American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee strongly advises that healthy Americans over age 2 limit their intake of saturated fat to 7-10 percent of total calories and their total fat intake to no more than 30 percent of total calories. If people limit their daily intake of fats and oils to about 5-8 teaspoons, they aren't likely to get an excess of trans fatty acids. 

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