Tackling Trans Fat

different types of donuts

Trans fat is a type of fat found in foods that increases our risk for heart disease. Many Canadians eat too much trans fat. Here’s what you need to know about what trans fat is and where to find it. 

What is trans fat?

Trans fat is a fat found in foods. Trans fat is made when a liquid vegetable oil is changed into a solid fat.  Trans fat is often added to processed foods because it can improve taste and texture and helps the food stay fresh longer.

Why is trans fat bad for your health?

Trans fat increases your risk of heart disease. This is because:

  • Trans fat raises your LDL (bad) cholesterol AND
  • Trans fat lowers your HDL (good) cholesterol

How much trans fat can I eat?

Trans fat is not needed for a healthy diet. You should aim to eat as little trans fat as possible.

What foods have trans fat?

These foods often have trans fat, though some countries have banned trans fats from being added to foods. You will need to read the Nutrition Facts table to know for sure:

  • Deep fried foods (spring rolls, chicken nuggets, frozen hash browns, French fries)
  • Ready to eat frozen foods (quiche, burritos, pizza, pizza pockets, French fries, egg rolls, veggie and beef patties)
  • Hard (stick) margarine and shortening
  • Commercially baked goods (donuts, Danishes, cakes, pies)
  • Convenience foods (icing, puff pastry, taco shells, pie crusts, cake mixes)
  • Toaster pastries (waffles, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches)
  • Snack puddings
  • Liquid coffee whiteners
  • Packaged salty snacks (microwave popcorn, chips, crackers)
  • Packaged sweet snacks (cookies, granola bars)

Trans fat can also be found naturally in some foods. Meat, milk, and butter naturally contain small amounts of trans fat. The trans fat found naturally in foods is different than manufactured trans fat and does not increase your risk of heart disease.

What to look for on the label

Food manufacturers must list how much trans fat is in their foods on the Nutrition Facts table. Because of this, many food manufacturers have changed their recipes. A large number of packaged foods are now reduced in trans fat or are trans fat free.

  • Look at the number of grams of trans fat in the Nutrition Facts table. Choose products with the lowest amount. 
  • Look at the %DV beside saturated fat on the Nutrition Facts table. Choose products with 10% DV or lower for saturated fat (this number is actually for the total of saturated and trans fat). The lower the number the better. Foods with a 5% DV or lower are considered low in fat. Watch this video to learn how to use the %DV on the Nutrition Facts table.
  • Check the ingredient list: avoid eating foods made with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil and shortening.
  • Look for words such as “free of trans fatty acids”, “reduced in trans fatty acids” and “lower in trans fatty acids”.

For information on how to read the Nutrition Facts table, watch these videos.

Reducing the amount of trans fat you eat

It is difficult to completely stop eating trans fat. The goal is to eat as little trans fat as possible. Remember that just because a food is trans fat free does not mean it is fat free. Many food companies have replaced the trans fat in foods with other types of fat – especially saturated fat. Too much saturated fat can also increase your heart disease risk.

  • Eat more vegetables, fruit, and unprocessed whole grains: these foods contain no trans fat.
  • Avoid deep fried foods. Choose grilled, steamed, broiled or baked instead.
  • Cook at home whenever you can. Bake your own cakes, muffins and pancakes instead of relying on pre-packaged mixes.
  • Bake and cook with a soft, non-hydrogenated margarine instead of hard (stick) margarine, butter or shortening.
  • Go online before you go to the restaurant to check the fat and trans fat content of foods.
  • Read nutrition labels on packaged foods to make lower saturated and trans fat choices.
  • Choose leaner meat and lower fat milk. Lean meats include pork cutlets, extra lean ground beef and skinless chicken and turkey breasts. Choose dairy products like milk, yogurt and cottage cheese with 2% MF (milk fat) or less.
  • Use healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats most often. These include olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oils and non-hydrogenated (soft) margarine. Avoid coconut and palm oil.

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Last Update – June 8, 2020

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