The word "trans" describes a type of harmful dietary fat, not body fat you may want to lose. Dietary fat is an important nutrient for good health, but not all types of fats are healthy choices. Trans fat is bad for your heart, and it's recommended that you eat as little of it as possible. Consult your doctor to discuss trans fat in your diet.
Why It's Bad
When it comes to trans fat, both the publication Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 and the Institute of Medicine say you need to keep your intake as low as possible. Trans fat works against your health in two ways, by first raising your levels of low-density lipoprotein, the "bad" cholesterol, and second by lowering your high-density lipoprotein, the "good" cholesterol.
Trans fat is also associated with an increased risk of both heart disease and type-2 diabetes, according to the American Heart Association.
Foods With Trans Fat
Trans fat is naturally present in certain animal foods, such as milk and meats, but the harmful trans fat in the diet comes from artificially produced trans fats found in processed foods, which are referred to as partially hydrogenated oils.
Artificial trans fats are found in a wide variety of both sweet and savory foods, including cakes, cookies, crackers, pie crusts, frozen pizza, biscuits and some fried foods and fast foods. They're also the primary fat in stick margarine and other fat spreads.
Reading the "Nutrition Facts" label can help you avoid trans fat. If a food contains less than 0.5 gram per serving, however, the amount of trans fat may be listed as zero, which may make it difficult for you to really know how much you're getting. If you see hydrogenated oil on the ingredients list, the product contains trans fat.
Eat These Foods Instead
Eating a diet filled with less processed food and more whole foods can help you limit your intake of trans fat. The American Heart Association recommends you eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, poultry and nuts. It's also recommended that you limit your intake of red meat as well.
With processed foods, use the food label to help you identify foods free of trans fat. In the ingredients list, look for foods made with nonhydrogenated oil.
Trans Fat-Free Meals
A healthy breakfast without trans fat might include a bowl of steel cut oats topped with walnuts and dried cranberries and served with nonfat milk. For a filling lunch free of trans fat, try a cold pasta salad made with whole-wheat penne, peas, sliced grape tomatoes, diced red onions, cubed low-fat mozzarella cheese and sliced chicken breast tossed with low-fat balsamic salad dressing. Serve with whole-wheat crackers and a fresh apple.
At dinner, consider a grilled hamburger made with lean ground meat on a whole-grain roll with a baked potato and plain steamed corn. Snack on fresh fruit, sliced veggies, unsalted nuts or air-popped popcorn.