Common grocery store purchases may contain higher levels of artery-clogging trans fats than you think. Here’s how to be a smarter shopper.
The bad trans fat
It’s a public health message we’ve heard nonstop—avoid trans fat. However, a 2012 study published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease revealed that 84 percent of packaged foods that listed “0 grams trans fat” on their Nutrition Facts label still had partially hydrogenated oil (the main dietary source of trans fat) in the ingredient list. Current laws allow companies to “round down” fewer than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving to zero. While it sounds small, these tiny numbers can still have a major negative impact on your health. “We eat a lot of packaged foods,” says Dawn Napoli, RD, a registered dietitian with UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health. “Over time that can make a huge difference.”
The good news? The amount of trans fat we eat has dropped in the past 30 years, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Men are consuming 32 percent less trans fat, and women 35 percent less, than they were in 1980. Still, 1.9 percent of men’s daily calories and 1.7 percent of women’s daily calories come from trans fat today (the American Heart Association recommends limiting trans fats to no more than 1 percent of total calories consumed). Even a few daily grams of these fats increase bad cholesterol, decrease good cholesterol, and clog arteries; and Harvard researchers estimate that trans fats cause up to 228,000 cases of heart disease and 50,000 deaths annually. Read on for 7 foods that are packing trans fat—even if the food label makes it hard to tell and watch out for these subtle signs that you’re eating too much bad fat.
Nondairy coffee creamer
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Half a gram of trans fat in creamer can quickly turn into multiple, since consumers tend to use more than the serving size of a teaspoon per cup (and the typical American coffee drinker guzzles an average of three cups of joe per day). On many “0 trans fat” labels, you can find partially hydrogenated oils as the second or third ingredient listed. Nondairy creamer is just one of the many worst foods for your stomach.
Some companies use partially hydrogenated oils to achieve a long shelf life and creamy texture, so check the label. To be safe, opt for the natural variety; although it’s chunkier, it’s also healthier and normally made with just salt and peanuts—not oils loaded with trans fat. Here are other foods that are surprisingly unhealthy.