Monday, March 15, 2010

Fat: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Part I: the Bad and the Ugly

Fat is an essential part of a healthy diet and it has many important roles in keeping us healthy. The tricky part is deciding which fats are good and which are bad. I hope this post will help you to decode which is which!

I will go ahead and discuss the bad fats first just to get those ugly guys out of the way! The first bad fat that you need to be on the lookout for are saturated fats. By law, they are required to be listed under the “Total Fat” category on food labels. This type of fat can be easily converted into cholesterol, which builds around the walls of the arteries and veins. While you can easily spot this on food labels, it is helpful to know which foods are the biggest offenders. Foods that fall into this category are whole milk, cheese, butter, eggs, fat back, baked goods, and ice cream.

The other fat that we need to be on the lookout for is called trans fat. This type of fat is man made and was created to increase the shelf-life of foods. Unfortunately, we found that it actually decreases the shelf-life of humans. Back to the drawing board, food manufacturers! Because of the hype about these fats doing damage to our bodies, some food manufacturers are working to reduce or delete the trans fat from their foods. However, it is still out there and we need to watch for it. Culprits of this type of fat are baked goods, margarine, and processed foods. Again, trans fat is, by law, listed under “Total Fat” on the food label.

I would like for you to keep an important fact in mind. When a food contains less than half of a gram of trans fat per serving, the food manufacturer can list it as ZERO grams. You might say, “If it contains less than half a gram, do I really need to be concerned?” I would say, “YES!” Let me explain why. First of all, remember that this is per serving. Do you always eat just one serving? I know I don’t always limit myself to what is listed as one serving. So, if you eat more than one serving, and you tend to do that all day long with foods that contain just a little bit of trans fat per serving, it really adds up. Unfortunately, studies are showing that just a few grams daily can negatively impact your risk for disease. I wouldn’t expect you to never let trans fat touch your tongue, but the idea is to be aware of it and avoid it as much as possible. So how will you know if a food contains trans fat? Look at the ingredient label. If “partially hydrogenated oil” is listed, then your food most definitely contains trans fat! Ingredients are listed from most abundant to least abundant, so that will also give you an idea of how much is in there.
...stay tuned to learn more about healthy fats!...


  1. So true. Great explanation of trans fats. Many people don't realize that "zero trans fat" isn't necessarily really zero...and how would they know since the food industry doesn't advertise that. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Looking forward to continuing to hear about how to increase my "shelf-life." :) Nice one.

  3. Erin'sMom: Thanks for your feedback! I'm glad you enjoyed the explanation!

    Busy-Dad-E: Thanks! More shelf-life extenders to come!