Less Healthy Fat Talk

November 14, 2009

Earlier this week I discussed fat in general and the specifics of healthy fat. As promised, here is an explanation of those less healthy, sometimes known as unhealthy and “bad,” fats.

The less healthy fats are saturated fat and trans fat. For a long time saturated fat was considered the worst offender when it comes to fat, but in recent years it has been found that trans fats are even worse. Saturated fat is a culprit for raising your bad, LDL, cholesterol, but trans fat is doubly bad in that it lowers your good, HDL, cholesterol, and raises your LDL cholesterol (this was previously mentioned in “Spread This“).

It’s important for you to know where these less healthy types of fat can be found and how much is too much so that you can decrease your risk of clogged arteries and heart disease — the result of excess saturated and trans fats.

  • Saturated fat is found in animal products including meat (especially red meat), butter, cream, shortening, ice cream, full-fat dairy products (i.e. whole milk, whole-milk cheeses), and some plant oils like palm kernel oil, coconut oil, and cocoa butter.
  • Saturated fat should be limited to 7 percent of total calories. For example, if you need 1800 calories per day, 126 calories or less should be from saturated fat, which comes to 14 grams or less.
  • Trans fat is a man-made partially-hydrogenated fat that is found in some stick margarine, shortening, fast food, cookies, cakes, donuts, and crackers.
    • Trans fat is man-made because it undergoes the process of hydrogenation — the addition of a hydrogen molecule — to make the oil firmer and more shelf stable. In this process, some of the unsaturated, healthy, fat, becomes saturated.
  • Trans fat should be limited to 1 percent of total calories. For example, if you need 1800 calories per day, 18 calories or less should be from trans fat, which comes to 2 grams or less.
    • Many companies are taking trans fat out of their products and labeling their products trans-fat free. But be careful: by law, a serving of food can contain up to .5 grams of trans fat and still be labeled as 0 grams. And small amounts add up fast. So it’s really important to read the ingredient list on products to make sure there are no hidden sources of trans fat.

So that’s the whole story on fat. Got questions? Send them to me at jessica@nutritioulicious.com!

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  1. It’s amazing how many food products have hidden trans fats in them. I can’t even get through an aisle in the grocery store without pointing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil out from every ingredient list, which is really sad.