Quick Skinny on Fats
There used to be only two types of fat, saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (also monounsaturated fats). These had certain effects on the LDL/HDL ratio of lipids in the body. The saturated fats (those solid at room temperature) raise the LDL/HDL ratio. LDL, the “bad” cholesterol goes up and the HDL, or “good” cholesterol, stays the same resulting in a higher LDL/HDL ratio. The unsaturated fats (usually liquid at room temperature) actually lower the LDL/HDL ratio. Now, there is another fat to consider: trans fat or trans fatty acids.
Trans fat is relatively new on the scene and is made by adding hydrogen to a liquid vegetable fat under pressure. This process makes the fat stiffer, and it is used to lengthen the shelf-life of foods and their flavor. As early as the 1980's their appeared to be a correlation between trans fatty acids and coronary heart disease. Later studies were still somewhat ambiguous. Finally, it was discovered trans fat not only raised the LDL levels but lowered the HDL – significantly raising the LDL/HDL ratio.
After several larger studies and pressure Congress, on January 1, 2006 the amount of trans fat would be required on the nutrition labels of food. It is listed just under the saturated fat levels. Consumers can evaluate the food to decide between heart healthy or unhealthy foods by adding the saturated fats and the trans fats. Having a daily intake of five grams of these two unhealthy fats is considered good. However, above 20 grams is considered dangerous and can contribute to arterial clogging.
Trans fats are found in the following foods:
- Pie crusts
- Cake Icing
- Most fast food frying fats so
- French fries
- Fried fruit pies
Foods without trans fat include:
- Fresh fruit
- Skim milk
- Whole wheat bread
- Almond or peanut butter
Since government enforcement of the nutrition label laws, many trans fats have been eliminated from foods. There is a growing trend to advertise “No trans fats,” as consumers have become more knowledgeable and discriminating about the foods they eat.
Want an easy way to remember among the three types of fats? “Poly is jolly, saturated so-so, and trans fat absolutely has to go!"