Trans fat to be replaced with mostly healthier substitutes

Most manufacturers and restaurants are choosing a healthier alternative to trans fats. That's needed because trans fats raise a person's bad cholesterol and lower the good.
BY MICHAEL ROIZEN, M.D., AND MEHMET OZ, M.D. Published: February 4, 2014
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Q: I'm glad that trans fats are being removed from our food supply, but what are they being replaced with?

— Carole J., Richmond, Va.

A: When trans fats, which come from partially hydrogenated oils and vegetable shortening, were first introduced, they were supposed to be a great substitute for saturated fats. But it turned out they not only increase your lousy LDL cholesterol levels and lower your good HDL levels, but they also increase inflammation and damage the lining of your blood vessels! Removing them from food is a very good step.

But you're right to ask what food manufacturers and bakers are going to use in place of them, because as trans fats proved, sometimes the substitute can be as bad as or worse than the original. Fortunately, this time around, fast-food restaurants, manufacturers of cookies, cakes, crackers and frozen breakfast products, and butter-substitute companies have come up with some (but not all) healthier alternatives.

Liquid oils: Deep-fry alternatives range from soybean to canola and sunflower oil or blends. These monounsaturated and polyunsaturated vegetable oils can help lower LDL. Canola is packed with healthful omega-3's, and some of these substitute oils even have healthful omega-7 and omega-9 fatty acids. But beware of the use of tropical oils, such as palm and coconut.

Off-the-shelf partially hydrogenated treats: In the past, snackin' favorites used trans fats to keep them from spoiling. But it turns out replacing them with highly saturated palm and coconut oils works just as well. But our advice is read the labels and stay away from these oils too.

Solid oils: Manufacturers are switching to fully hydrogenated, fractionated (concentrating the saturated fats in them) and interesterified oils, instead of the old partially hydrogenated ones, because they solidify without producing trans fats. But these oils still aren't as good for you as unsaturated and monounsaturated oils, so dodge these harmful fats.

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