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For Better Living

Sandra Cain


How Bad is Trans Fat?

Scientific research shows that consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, and dietary cholesterol raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad cholesterol," levels.  This increases the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, more than 12.5 million Americans have CHD, and more than 500,000 die each year. That makes CHD one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

The Food and Drug Administration has required that saturated fat and dietary cholesterol be listed on food labels since 1993. Beginning in 2006, the listing of trans fat is also required. With trans fat added to the Nutrition Facts panel, you can find out  how much of all three--saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol--are in the foods you choose. Identifying saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol on the food label gives you information you need to make food choices that help reduce the risk of CHD.

Most trans fats are made when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil--a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenation increases the shelf life and flavor stability of foods containing these fats.  Saturated fat occurs naturally in nearly all fatty foods, but mostly in meats, dairy products, and tropical oils like palm kernel and coconut.

The evidence against both fats, saturated and trans, is so strong that we should not play one against another.  We should cut down on both saturated and trans fats.  Actually, trans fat is probably worse than saturated fat.  Saturated fat raises both LDL or bad cholesterol and HDL, good cholesterol,  while trans fat only raises LDL.  If you have to target one fat for modification, there's a greater potential for change by cutting saturated fat.  That's because only two percent of our calories come from trans fat, while saturated fat contributes 13 percent.  Avoiding saturated fat is difficult because it's in so many popular foods, from pizza and hamburgers to steak, tacos, ice cream, lasagna, and cheese. Conclusion:  we need to limit our intake of both saturated and trans fats.

To cut down on trans fats, we need to limit our consumption of french fries, cakes, pies, and other foods made with hydrogenated oil, shortening, or stick margarine.  Remember:  trans fat raises LDL.  Trans fats occur naturally in beef, butter, milk and lamb fats and in commercially prepared, partially hydrogenated margarines and solid cooking fats.  Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils were developed in part to help displace highly saturated animal and vegetable fats used in frying, baking and spreads.  Their use in margarines probably provides a more healthful alternative to butter, beef tallow and lard, because they have less saturates.

Most of us, when told to cut down on fats in our diets, will naturally cut down on the amount of trans fats as well as saturated fats.  Substituting solid tub margarine for stick margarine will decrease dietary trans fat in our diets. If one of your goals in cutting down on the fat in your diet is to lower total cholesterol, you might go even further and use one of the new spreads that are made from plant sterols.  Just remember that making even small changes to improve your diet can reap big rewards in your overall health.

Source:  Food and Drug Administration
              Colorado Cooperative Extension

Pineapple Almond Bars
            3/4 cup all-purpose flour
            3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
            1/3 cup packed brown sugar
            5 tablespoons cold reduced-fat stick margarine
            1/2 teaspoon almond extract
            3 tablespoons sliced almonds
            1 cup pineapple preserves

In a food processor, combine the flour, oats and brown sugar.  Cover and process until blended.  Add margarine and extract.  Cover and pulse until crumbly.  Remove ½ cup crumb mixture to a bowl;  stir in sliced almonds.  Press remaining crumb mixture in a 9 inch square baking pan coated with nonstick cooking spray.  Spread preserves over crust.  Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden.  Cool on a wire rack. Yield:  1 dozen



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