You turn over that food package in the grocery store to read the nutritional label. Your eyes immediately fix on "trans fat." The label says "0." But that big zero doesn't necessarily mean it's free of trans fatty acids. That zero may mean the product contains a level of trans fat that's just under the 0.5 grams the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires for specific listing on the nutritional label. In that case, the manufacturer can list "0" as the level of trans fat.
While most food manufacturers have reduced the amount of trans fat in their products by using healthier cooking oils, such as olive and canola, you still must stay on guard.
Here are some tips that can help you avoid trans fat:
• Look for the phrases "partially hydrogenated," "hydrogenated vegetable oil," or "shortening" on nutritional labels, since they are dead giveaways products contain some trans fat;
• Use caution when consuming products made outside the United States since their labels may avoid saying they're made with partially hydrogenated oil;
• Replace trans fat and saturated fat with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats;
• Cut back on fried foods, and processed and commercial foods;
• Ask, when dining out, what oil the cook uses to prepare your food and, if needed, request a healthier oil;
• Choose soft margarines instead of solid shortenings, stick margarines, and butter.
• Avoid or limit foods made with coconut, palm and palm kernel oils in favor of soybean, corn and sunflower oils.
• Exercise portion control when eating at home and especially in restaurants.
• Remember that a small amount of trans fat occurs naturally in meat and diary products, so chose lean cuts of meat and low-fat milk;
• Watch out for products that tout "no cholesterol" or "cholesterol free," because some may contain high levels of trans fat.