How low should you go?

Trans fat, particularly the manufactured variety found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, appears to have no known health benefit. The Department of Agriculture recommends that the intake of trans fat be kept as low as possible.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated vegetable oil is no longer "generally recognized as safe" and should eventually be phased out of the production of food. However, the FDA's preliminary determination must go through a lengthy review process before it becomes finalized.

How trans fat harms you

Doctors worry about trans fat because of its unhealthy effect on your cholesterol levels — increasing your LDL and decreasing your HDL cholesterol. There are two main types of cholesterol:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL). LDL, or "bad," cholesterol can build up in the walls of your arteries, making them hard and narrow.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL, or "good," cholesterol picks up excess cholesterol and takes it back to your liver.

If the fatty deposits within your arteries tear or rupture, a blood clot may form and block blood flow to a part of your heart, causing a heart attack, or to a part of your brain, causing a stroke.

What should you eat?

Don't think a food that is free of trans fat is automatically good for you. Food manufacturers have begun substituting other ingredients for trans fat. Some of these ingredients, such as tropical oils — coconut, palm kernel and palm oils — contain a lot of saturated fat. Saturated fat raises your LDL cholesterol.

In a healthy diet, 25 to 35 percent of your total daily calories can come from fat — but saturated fat should account for less than 10 percent of your total daily calories.

Monounsaturated fat — found in olive, peanut and canola oils — is a healthier option than is saturated fat. Nuts, fish and other foods containing unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids are other good choices of foods with monounsaturated fats.

Aug. 06, 2014 See more In-depth