Trans Fat

by Leanne Ely

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Recently, a reader sent me this question:

Q: The news has been full of "trans fat" issues lately. I know that these partially hydrogenated oils are everywhere and I wanted to hear your spin on the issue. How much trans fat is in typical products? How much is too much? Any information would be helpful.

A: To answer this question, it's important to define what a trans fat is first. Trans fatty acids are created through a process called hydrogenation, which basically forces hydrogen into a highly heated oil creating a hard product from a liquid product--more commonly known as shortening or margarine.

The problem with trans fats is they are just as culpable as saturated fats for raising LDL levels (low density lipoprotein, the "bad cholesterol"). But unlike saturated fats (which also raise HDL levels), trans fats actually reduce HDL levels (high density lipoprotein, the "good cholesterol"). So you can see where the margarine/butter debate would logically end.

Though trans fats have only been seriously studied for the past 10 years, there are some early indications that trans fats could increase your risk to cancer, diabetes and may even cause pregnancy complications.

The FDA is planning on making changes to food labels by 2006 to include information on trans fats so the consumer can distinguish if this is indeed something he'd want to buy, based on the nutrition offered (or not offered) and/or the potential risk involved in consuming that particular food.

So what will the FDA say is an acceptable amount of trans fat in the diet? In my estimation, it doesn't matter what they say. Any product that contains hydrogenated oils, shortening or margarine should be avoided. Some of the biggest trans fat offenders are donuts, crackers, cookies and French fries. You can probably add to that list. Just start reading labels.

In this day and age, there is no reason to not be reading nutrition labels. Stay away from hydrogenated anything (and partially hydrogenated oils, as well) and give your body the healthy foods you need.

The food industry uses partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated oils because they're cheap. Don't short changed your health by thinking you're being frugal using products that contain hydrogenated oils. You'll pay in the long run with something irreplaceable--your health.

If you'd like to see what a week's worth of delicious, healthy dinners looks like, go to my website and pick up your free menu, complete with shopping list at

Leanne Ely is a New York Times best selling author of Body Clutter and the popular Saving Dinner cookbook series. According to Woman's Day Magazine, she is the expert on family cooking.

Leanne's syndicated newspaper column, The Dinner Diva can be found in 250 newspapers nationwide and in Canada. Her vast broadcast experience includes media satellite tours, QVC several times as well as guesting on several national television shows, including HGTV's Simple Solutions, ABC Family's Living the Life, Ivanhoe's Smart Woman, Small Talk for Parents and Talk of the Town. She has guest chef-ed on the cooking show, Carolina Cooks and has taught cooking classes all over the country for Bloomingdale's.

In addition, she is a seasoned radio personality. Leanne's own radio show, Heart of A Woman aired during drive time in two major California markets, Los Angeles and San Diego. Her current show, The Dinner Diva is one of the top Blog Talk Radio shows on the Internet.

On the Internet, she pens the Food for Thought column for the immensely popular,, with over half a million readers weekly. She has been featured in Woman's Day magazine, the Chicago Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, Orange County Register - to name a few. Additionally, she is a sought after speaker and has spoken all over the country, with keynote addresses to corporate and non-profit entities. Visit Leanne Ely on Google+.

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