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A recent health movement has lead to the removal of trans fats from grocery stores, restaurants, and entire states. Are the substitutions for the fats any healthier?

The answer depends on the food. Consumers are still warned to eat carefully, as artery-clogging saturated fats often take the place of trans fat.

The American Heart Association is launching a campaign to teach consumers about the different fats and how to tell what foods they're in.

"Right now the public has to be very careful ... if something says 'trans fat-free,' what else is in it?" warns Dr. Robert Eckel, past president of the American Heart Association.

Trans fat is now widely recognized as unhealthy. New York City and Philadelphia restaurants are required to remove it from their food by 2008. In at least 20 states, bills discouraging the use of trans fat in restaurants and school cafeterias have been introduced. Manufacturers now must list the amount of trans fat on packaged food labels.

While people are shunning trans fat, Americans are still consuming five times as many saturated fats, another health culprit. As a result, the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other ailments is still increasing.

Man-made trans fat is created when companies add hydrogen to liquid cooking oils to harden them for baking or for a longer shelf -life, turning them into "partially hydrogenated oils."

Chemists and chefs are in the process of testing replacements that won’t alter the taste or texture of the food.

What are the options? For fried foods, there are olive, canola, or soybean oils to take the place of trans fats. The industry is having a difficult time finding a replacement for the fats found in baked goods, as these oils would spoil the taste of sweets.

Swapping trans fat for butter, lard, or tropical oils such as palm or coconut oil may keep the taste, but they are packed with saturated fat.

"You need to find a replacement for a solid fat that doesn't have the health implications, and that's the tougher battle," says Susan Borra of the International Food Information Council. "We are changing the entire fatty acid profile of the food supply, and we're not sure we know what it's going to look like at the other end."

And that's where the concern comes in. Merely substituting saturated fat for the trans doesn't give the food more bad fat altogether than before, but it doesn't make it a healthy choice either, Eckel explains.

How much fat is too much? The heart association advises that less than 7 percent of total calories should be saturated fat" 4 percent less than the average American consumers now. Trans fat should be less than 1 percent of calories, half today's average.

The American Heart Association has created a translator at https://www.americanheart.org/facethefats that calculates the amount of fat a person should incorporate into their diet based on a age, gender, weight, height, and physical activity level. Also included is a list of suggested food alternatives for each user.

Many companies are searching for trans fat alternatives that are healthier than saturated fats, Borra stresses. The heart association has been bringing together food makers, food chemists and health experts to explore ways of ridding products of unhealthy fats.

For now, reading the food label " the Nutrition Facts panel on the back of the package, not just the "trans-free" icon on the front " is crucial, says Michael Jacobson of the consumer advocacy Center for Science in the Public Interest. Beware of partially hydrogenated oils and saturated fats when eating.

>> Original Article





@ 6:27pm ET on April 17, 2007
Replace everything with tofu:| I REALLY want to try tofu. It's supposed to be a healthier alternative to meat, but I can't find any in major food stores. Hmm, I'll keep on looking. Anyway, thanks for the post. It was really interesting.

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