22 Worst Foods for Trans FatTrans fat can make food taste good, last longer on grocery-store shelves, and more hazardous for your heart.
"Trans fats raise your bad cholesterol just like saturated fats, but they also increase inflammation and lower the good cholesterol that protects us against heart disease," says Andrea Giancoli, RD, MPH, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, in Hermosa Beach, Calif.
The good news? Many food manufacturers and fast-food chains have removed or reduced trans fat. But it still lurks in many foods — here are 22 to watch.
Trans fat is made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil.
Many restaurant chains have stopped frying food in hydrogenated oils, and recent research found that five in particular — McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Jack in the Box, and Dairy Queen — had significantly reduced trans-fat levels in french fries.
But others have been slow to embrace the trend: A large Cajun fries from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, for example, still contains 3.5 grams of trans fat.
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Anything fried or battered
Nutritional information might be harder to find for independent restaurants and local eateries than the big chains, says Giancoli, so it's smart to assume that anything fried or battered may have trans fat.
"You can certainly ask about the oil that the food is fried in," she says. "But even if they say vegetable oil, it could still be hydrogenated."
Your best bet, she adds, is generally to limit consumption of fried foods, which aren't the best for you, trans fat or not.
Pie and piecrust
Baked products are notorious for containing trans fat, but many major restaurant chains (such as McDonald's and Burger King) have removed hydrogenated oils from their apple pies.
You can still find the trans-fat varieties in your grocery store, however: Many varieties of Marie Callender’s frozen fruit and cream pies have between 2 and 4.5 grams of trans fat per serving.
As for piecrust, Pillsbury Pet-Ritz Frozen Deep Dish All Vegetable piecrust contains 1.5 grams of trans fat per serving. Look for one without hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list.
Not so long ago, margarine was marketed as a healthier alternative to butter because it's made from vegetable oil instead of dairy or animal products. But for the margarine to maintain its solid form, many brands (especially stick varieties) depend on hydrogenated oils and are high in trans fat and/or saturated fat.
Steer clear of Shedd’s Spread Country Crock Spreadable Sticks (2 grams trans fat per serving), Blue Bonnet Regular Sticks (1.5 grams per serving), Land O'Lakes margarine sticks (2.5 grams per serving), and Fleischmann's original stick margarine (1.5 grams per serving), and instead opt for whipped, reduced-fat, or fat-free soft spreads. Get more tips here: Butter vs. Margarine: How to Choose.
Crisco has come a long way in terms of trans fat — so far, in fact, that according to the label, the popular shortening now contains 0 grams. But a closer look at the ingredients list shows that partially hydrogenated oils are still there.
Companies are allowed to round down and put “0 grams” on the nutrition label if their product has less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving. But if you do a lot of baking — or a lot of eating once the cookies come out of the oven — those trace amounts can add up to unhealthy levels.
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