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Trans fats raise levels of LDL (lousy) and lower levels of HDL (healthy) cholesterol in your body.
Trans fats are also called partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or shortening.
What Are Trans Fats?
Trans fats are produced when a healthy fat, such as soybean or olive oil, goes through a chemical process called “partial hydrogenation”. This means that hydrogen atoms are added to the oil. Adding hydrogen atoms turns a liquid oil into a solid.
Manufacturers hydrogenate oils because it prevents the oil from separating from other ingredients in the product. As an example, let’s look at natural and regular peanut butter.
- Natural peanut butter needs to be stirred before spreading because the oil separates from the crushed nuts.
- Regular peanut butter does not need to be stirred because the hydrogenation process prevents the oil from separating from the nuts.
Hydrogenation can also improve the texture of the product.
Look for “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated” oils or fats on the ingredients list on the food label. If either of these fats or oils is on the label it means that there is trans fat in the product.
Learn more about reading food labels »
Foods with trans fats
Foods with trans fats include:
- store-bought crackers and cookies
- store-bought cakes, pie crusts, pastries, donuts
- vegetable shortening, hard margarine
- french fries, potato and corn chips
- deep-fried foods
Ways to avoid trans fats
Replace commercially prepared, processed foods with healthy choices such as:
- fruit and ¼ cup unsalted nuts
- raw veggies and hummus
- low-fat low-sugar yogurt
- whole-grain crackers and low-fat ricotta cheese
Use healthy oils in home baking and cooking.