More Thoughts on Trans Fat

Several years ago, when I was a freelance nutrition editor for Child magazine, I got into a heated disagreement with several of the senior editors. The magazine wanted me to write an article telling parents on how to find food products that were low in trans fat. My argument was, and still is, that if we advise Americans to eat less of the foods that traditionally are high in trans fat “fried chicken, donuts, commercial cakes and cookies, chips and crackers, hard stick margarine” the trans fat issue take care of itself.

So where are we today? Manufacturers are reformulating their food products to be free of trans fat, and restaurants in New York, Philadelphia, and other cities and states are being required to prepare all foods without trans fat. But it’s important to ask what is replacing trans fat. In many cases, the “new” fat, for example, butter in baked goods, is more saturated than the fat it is replacing. Remember that partially hydrogenated vegetable oil “the source of most of our trans fat” was invented as a healthier alternative to highly saturated butter, lard and suet.

Does it matter that fried chicken, donuts and cookies now are trans fat free? In my opinion, no. They still are too high in calories and too low in nutrition to be a regular part of anyone’s diet. And in an era when obesity is a growing problem in this country, I would argue that eating too many calories and too much fat, not too much trans fat, is our biggest health concern. The American Heart Association is a great resource for information on healthy eating. Check out the AHA’s fat calculator, www.americanheart.org/facethefats, to find out how much fat you should beating and which foods can be part of a healthy diet.

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