As of Jan. 1, food manufacturers are now required to list trans fat on nutrition labels. Consumption of saturated fat, trans fat and dietary cholesterol raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels—the “bad” cholesterol—and increases your risk of heart disease.
Saturated fat and dietary cholesterol have been listed on food labels since 1993. With trans fat added to the Nutrition Facts panel (see graphic), you’ll have help in making wiser food choices.
Trans fat is made when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil—a process known as hydrogenation, which increases a food’s shelf life and flavor stability. It’s found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, cookies, potato chips and snack foods, and other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils. Unlike other fats, most trans fat is formed when food manufacturers turn liquid oils into solid fats, such as shortening and hard margarine. A small amount of trans fat is found naturally—primarily in dairy products, some meat and other animal-based foods.
While saturated fat is the main dietary culprit in raising LDL, trans fat and dietary cholesterol contribute significantly. While unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) are beneficial when consumed in moderation, saturated and trans fats are not.
Use the new nutrition labels to compare foods and select items with lower amounts of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. You will find trans fat listed on the Nutrition Facts panel directly under the line for saturated fat. Health experts recommend keeping your intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.
It may surprise you to learn that some dietary supplements contain trans fat from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, as well as saturated fat and cholesterol. If a supplement contains a reportable amount of trans or saturated fat (0.5 g or more), manufacturers are now required to list the amounts on the Supplement Facts panel.