You know the phrase “everything is ok in moderation”? Well, there’s one item many Americans consume daily that may be an exception to that: trans fats. Trans fatty acids are formed when manufacturers turn liquid oils into solid fats, which greatly extends their shelf life.

How prevalent are they? Well, for starters, trans fats are found in 40% of supermarket products. And that’s just packaged goods─fast food is another story. Nearly all cheap fried items such as onion rings, nuggets, and French fries treat you to an average of 10 trans fat grams per serving.

Why are trans fats bad for you?

According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), “Trans fatty acids are not essential and provide no known benefit to human health” and “while both saturated and trans fats increase levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, trans fats also lower levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, thus increasing the risk of coronary heart disease.” The report concludes that “trans fats are more deleterious with respect to coronary heart disease than saturated fats.”

Given these alarming facts, the NAS definitively states that there is no safe level of trans fat consumption. No adequate level, recommended daily amount, or tolerable upper limit whatsoever, because any incremental increase in trans fat intake boosts your risk of coronary heart disease.1

How can you avoid trans fats?

If you really want to steer clear of these dangerous fats, it’s not too difficult. Simply beware of commercial baked goods like crackers, chips, cookies and cakes, as well as fried foods like donuts, onion rings, and French fries. Many shortenings and margarines still contain trans fats as well, though in recent years, some manufacturers have replaced them since they must now be listed on food labels.

Still, there are a few labeling loopholes. For example, if a food product has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat/serving, the label can read “0 grams trans fat.” Consuming multiple servings of such products—as many Americans do—means trans fats add up. Again, there is no tolerable upper limit where your wellness is concerned.

Focusing on fresh, whole, unprocessed foods, protecting yourself with a daily, high-quality multi-vitamin/mineral formula, and completely avoiding trans fats will go a long way towards ensuring your healthy longevity. When you’re 90 playing golf at Pebble Beach with your grandson, you’ll be very glad you did.

References
1 Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients). National Academies Press. p. 423. http://www.nap.edu/openbook/0309085373/html/423.html.

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