Controversial Ingredients

Trans Fat

Published on Thursday, 31 May 2012 00:29

What is Trans Fats?

Trans fat, also known as trans fatty acids, comes from when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil through a process called hydrogenation. It is used to help food stay fresh longer, and to have a longer shelf life. Trans fat lowers the “good” cholesterol (HDL) and raises the “bad” cholesterol (LDL), which can cause heart disease. Trans fat can occur naturally in some meats and dairy but it is more harmful from processed foods.

Recently manufacturers were required to put trans fat ratings on their food labels; however, the labeling requirements state that amounts of trans fat less than 0.5 grams per serving can be placed on the food label as 0 grams trans fat. Restaurants are not required to list trans fat in their nutritional information on the menu, but fortunately many restaurants are not using trans fat anymore.New York City passed a law banning trans fat from being used in restaurants. 

Note: Cooking with margarine or shortening will not increase the amount of trans fat in food. Cooking is not the same as the hydrogenation process.

It is difficult to avoid all foods with trans fat. Try to limit the amount as best as possible. A little fat is acceptable for the diet, but over consumption can lead to heart attack, stroke, heart disease and obesity.

Effects and Symptoms


  • Raises LDL “bad” cholesterol, a contributor to heart disease. Over time fat deposits (also called plaques) stick to the walls of the arteries and cause a reduction of blood flow through the arteries.
  • An increase in triglycerides contributes to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which can lead to heart attack, stroke, and heart disease.
  • Trans fat can damage the cells that line blood vessels, which increases the chance of inflammation in the body.
  • Weakens the immune system which leads to other infections
  • Reduces elasticity of blood vessels
  • Causes nutritional deficiencies
  • It blocks the action of omega-3’s and omega 6’s

Symptoms may include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Palpitations
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue

Ingredients to Avoid:

  • Hydrogenated vegetable oil
  • Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
  • Shortening
  • Vanaspati

Trans Fats can be found in:

  • Fried foods: french fries, doughnuts, foods cooked in restaurants
  • Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (if label says “Fully” hydrogenated oil it does not contain trans fat)
  • Hydrogenated vegetable oil
  • Commercial baked goods: crackers, cookies, cakes, pies, potato chips, corn chips
  • Shortenings
  • Margarines
  • Bisquick
  • Cake mixes
  • Soups: Ramen noodles, soup cups
  • Frozen foods: pies, pizzas, pot pies, waffles, fish sticks
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Energy bars
  • Toppings, dips, gravies, dressings
  • Non-dairy creamers


  • Fresh cold and expeller pressed oils: sunflower seeds, safflower, olive, grape seeds, sesame seed, flax seed, soy, almonds, walnuts and canola (read label carefully)
  • Omega-3 fatty acid foods: nuts, fish
  • Butter (contains low amounts of natural trans fat, healthier than margarine)
  • Soft-tub margarine (less likely to have trans fat)
  • Flour or baking powder to bake
  • Coconut oil (contains saturated fat)
  • Palm oil  (contains saturated fat)
  • Palm kernel (contains saturated fat)
  • Fat-free/reduced fat soups
  • Order food boiled or baked
  • Pretzels
  • Toast
  • Dark chocolate
  • Gummy bears or jelly beans
  • Pita bread
  • Skim milk, powdered milk

Tips and Facts

If you want to use margarine look for soft-tub margarine, it will likely have no trans-fat.

Butter contains small amounts of lauric acid, a uniquely health-promoting fat that is also found in coconut oil and mother's milk. It is also a good natural source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) - a natural polyunsaturated trans fat with anti-cancer properties.

Food that is deep fried in animal fat, such as fish and chips, contains less fat - as well as better fat - than is the case if is cooked in standard frying oils of [partially] hydrogenated vegetable origin.