You’ve probably heard about the dangers of saturated fat, which is usually animal fat and solidifies at room temperature. Examples include butter, lard, meat fat, solid
shortening, and palm oil.
You likely know that this type of fat raises cholesterol, and very possibly you’ve trained yourself to stay away from it, even during the holidays. But while you’re staying away from saturated fats, you may fall into the trap of the trans fat that lurks in many kinds of holiday treats. Trans fat (or trans fatty acid) is created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Trans fat is found in many foods, but especially in fried foods such as french fries and doughnuts, and baked goods including pastries, pie crusts, biscuits, pizza dough, cookies, crackers, and margarines and other shortenings.
Food manufacturers put trans fat in their foods because they’re inexpensive to produce, easy to use, and last a long time. Trans fat gives foods a pleasing taste and texture. Many restaurants and fast-food outlets use trans fat to deep-fry many of their dishes because oils with trans fat can be used many times over in commercial fryers.
You can find trans fat in processed and packaged foods by looking at the Nutrition Facts panel on the food labeling. You can also spot trans fat by reading ingredient lists and looking for ingredients referred to as “partially hydrogenated oils.” Unfortunately, when they are used in restaurant cooking, you don’t get a chance to look at the ingredient list. That’s why if you are trying to eat healthy and/ or lose weight, cooking at home using whole foods — not those that are packaged or processed — is the best way to go.