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Understanding Trans Fat: What You Need to Know and How to Avoid It

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Trans fats have garnered widespread attention and concern over the last few years due to the serious health risks they pose. This type of fat, often hidden in many of our favorite foods, can impact your heart health and contribute to weight gain. In this blog, we will demystify trans fat, exploring where it comes from, the health issues it can cause, and how you can limit your intake.

The Basics: What is Trans Fat?

Trans fats, also known as trans-fatty acids, are a type of dietary fat. While they occur naturally in small amounts in some foods, most trans fats are artificially made during a process called hydrogenation, where hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.

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There are two primary types of trans fats in our diet:

  1. Naturally-occurring trans fats: Produced in the gut of certain animals, and foods made from these animals like milk and meat products may contain minor amounts of these fats.
  2. Artificial trans fats (or industrial trans fats): These are formed in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.

Artificial trans fats are a favorite in the food industry because they’re cost-effective, easy to use, and last a long time. They’re commonly found in fried foods, baked goods, and processed snack foods.

Why Are Trans Fats a Health Concern?

The main issue with trans fats lies in their impact on your cholesterol levels. They increase your ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and decrease your ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, a combination that can lead to heart disease.

Beyond this, research has linked trans fats to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and stroke. In 2015, the FDA made the determination that partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of artificial trans fats in food, could no longer be considered “Generally Recognized as Safe.”

High Trans Fat Foods to Avoid

While many food manufacturers and fast-food chains have reduced their use of trans fats, they can still be found in a number of processed foods:

  1. Fried foods: Many fast food chains use trans fats for frying due to their high melting point.
  2. Baked goods: Cookies, cakes, pies, and pastries often contain shortening, which is high in trans fats.
  3. Microwave popcorn: The butter flavoring often contains partially hydrogenated oils.
  4. Non-dairy coffee creamers: Many creamers use partially hydrogenated oils for texture and shelf life.
  5. Frozen pizza: Frozen pizza crust often contains trans fats.

Limiting Your Trans Fat Intake

The best way to limit your intake of trans fats is to read nutrition labels carefully. In the United States, food manufacturers must list trans fat content. However, if a product contains less than 0.5 grams per serving, it can be labeled as having 0 grams of trans fat, meaning a product could still contain trans fats even if the label implies otherwise.

If you see “partially hydrogenated oil” in the list of ingredients, that food contains trans fats.

Focusing on a diet rich in whole foods is another effective strategy. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats are all excellent choices that are trans fat-free.


Understanding the impact of trans fats on your health and how to avoid them can significantly contribute to your overall wellbeing. By educating ourselves and making mindful food choices, we can enjoy a healthier lifestyle, free from the risks posed by trans fats.

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