Which Foods Are High in Trans Fats?
It’s surprisingly easy to consume a high level of trans fats since they are found in so many of the prepackaged foods that make up a large percentage of modern diets. A small quantity of trans fat is found naturally in foods—usually in animal products—but the vast majority of trans fats are artificial and come from the partially hydrogenated oil found in packaged foods.
The most common culprits are packaged snacks, fried foods, and commercial baked goods like cookies and cakes. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the following foods are some of the most common sources of trans fats consumed in the United States:
- Baked goods: cakes, cookies, crackers, pies, bread, etc.
- Fried potatoes, or other commercially deep-fried foods
- Potato chips, corn chips, movie popcorn
- Household shortening
- Salad dressing
- Breakfast cereal
- Animal products (such as milk products, cheese, beef, and lamb)
Amount of trans fat in commonly eaten foods:
- French fried potatoes: 8 grams
- Margarine (stick): 3 grams
- Margarine (tub): 0.5 grams
- Shortening: 4 grams
- Potato chips: 3 grams
- Doughnuts: 5 grams
- Cookies: 2 grams
- Candy bar: 3 grams
- Pound cake: 4.5 grams
The Good News on Trans Fat
Since January 2006, all food manufacturers are required to list trans fats on their labels, so you no longer have to guess at which foods might pose a risk. Read labels carefully, however; labels can claim "No Trans Fat" if there is less than 0.5 grams. Too many .49-gram servings will add up fast. Look also for the words hydrogenated and shortening, which are likely to mean trans fat. In response to consumer complaints, some manufacturers are eliminating trans fats from their products, and more cities and states are moving toward banning trans fats from restaurants.
Someday trans fats may be eliminated altogether from the foods we eat, but for now your best bet is to choose whole foods as often as possible, read food labels before buying a product, and, at a restaurant or bakery, always ask whether they use trans fats before ordering that pastry.