The Low-down on Saturated and Trans Fats

Melanie Thomassian Health Pro
  • Reducing the saturated and trans fats from our diet can be a massive step towards decreasing our risk of developing heart disease. But, do we really know what these fats are, or indeed what foods they're found in?

     

    According to a new American Heart Association survey, consumer awareness of saturated and trans fats are at an all time high. However, we're still in need of key information on how to improve our eating habits.

    The survey found that:

    • 93% of consumers were aware of saturated fat, however only 30% could name three food sources of saturated fat
    • 92% of consumers were aware of trans fat, buy only 20% could name three food sources of trans fat

     

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    Would you be able to name at least three foods high in saturated and trans fats? The good news is that general awareness of the link between ‘bad' fats, and increased heart disease risk has increased from the previous study findings, carried out in 2006.

    Robert Eckel, M.D., past president of the American Heart Association said, "We're encouraged to see that consumer awareness of saturated and trans fats is higher than ever, and that more people understand the link between these fats and increased heart disease risk, but it's clear that consumers need to know which foods contain what fats, to minimize both saturated and trans fats, and make heart-healthier food choices."

     

    What are saturated fats?

     

    Eating foods high in saturated fat can led to an increase in our LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. As a result, we are at an increased risk of developing heart disease and stroke. We should try to avoid such foods wherever possible.

     

    So, what foods contain saturated fat?

    Saturated fats occur naturally in many foods, with the majority coming from animal products, such as meat and dairy. Some examples include:

    • Butter
    • Lard
    • Suet
    • Ghee
    • Hard cheese
    • Cream
    • Other dairy products made from whole, or reduced fat milk
    • Fatty beef
    • Lamb
    • Pork
    • Poultry withskin
    • Cakes
    • Biscuits/cookies
    • Fried foods
    • Palm oil
    • Coconut oil

     

    What are trans fats?

     

    Trans fats are responsible not only for raising our LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, but they are also thought to lower our HDL (good) cholesterol. Therefore, consuming a diet high in trans fat also puts us at an increased risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

     

     

    So, what foods contain trans fats?

    Trans fats are found in a wide range of foods, but particularly in fried and baked foods. Some of these include:

     

    • Margarine
    • Shortening
    • Fried foods
    • Doughnuts
    • Pastries
    • Biscuits/cookies
    • Cakes
    • Crackers
    • Pie crusts
    • Pizza dough
    • Foods that have ‘partially hydrogenated oils,' or ‘hydrogenated fat' in the ingredients list

     

    What do the recommended guidelines say?

     

    The American Heart Association recommends limiting our intake of saturated fats to less than 7% of the total daily calories. If you were eating around 1,500 calories each day for example, this would mean no more than 105 calories could come from saturated fats.

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    In terms of trans fats, less than 1% of our total daily calories should come from these. This means no more than 15 calories coming from trans fat, if you were eating around 1,500 calories each day.

     

    There's no doubt, it is very important to avoid sources of saturated and trans fats in our diets. However, we all know the problems and difficulties we face putting healthy eating guidelines into practice! Over the next few weeks we'll take a closer look at some practical tips for reducing our total fat intake.

     

    Related:

     

    Read Melanie's recent article outlining Six Basic Steps to a Healthier Heart

     

    What Does Zero Trans Fats Really Mean?

     

    Unsaturated, Saturated and Trans Fats: The Good and The Bad

     

    HDL Cholesterol: Harder to Control Than Thought

     

    The Basics of Cholesterol

     

    Find heart healthy recipes and cooking tips on our partner site FoodFit.

     

    Melanie Thomassian is also the author of Dietriffic.com, an online resource for credible dietary advice, exercise tips, and much more! 

Published On: October 15, 2007