Should I be worried about trans fats?

Usually, unsaturated fats are ones we think of the healthy ones.  They’re good for our heart and overall health, and are found in foods like nuts and seeds, olive oil, and avocado.  But there are some sneaky unsaturated fats that aren’t so healthy, trans fats.

Trans fats are unsaturated fats that act like saturated fats, the ones we know raise our cholesterol levels, and our risk of heart disease.

Eating too many foods with trans fats in them can increase both your total, and unhealthy (LDL) cholesteorl levels, and decrease your healthy (HDL) cholesterol. The National Heart Foundation has found that trans fats are linked with an increased risk of heart attack and heart disease.

Like saturated fat, we should watch the amount of trans fats we eat. Trans fats are rare, but there are small amounts in beef, lamb, and dairy foods. What we really need to watch out for are the trans fats in processed foods.  The trans fats in deep fried foods, cakes and biscuits, and pies and pastries form when oils and fats are heated at a high temperature.  So to avoid trans fats, try to steer clear of processed foods and eat mainly whole, fresh foods.

Trans fats in margarines

Many people avoid margarine because they believe it’s full of trans fats.  Luckily, this is not the case in Australia.  We’re really fortunate that Australian manufacturers remove most trans fats during processing.  In fact, margarines that have unsaturated fats (like canola or olive oil) are a healthy spread to include. Remember to always read the label to find out more about different products though.

Food labels

Australian manufacturers do not need to include trans fats on food labels, unless they make a nutrition claim about cholesterol, saturated or unsaturated fat, or trans fatty acids. It is important to be aware of the types of foods that may contain trans fatty acids, as it may not be obvious by looking at labels on food packages.

Smart Eating tips to limit trans fats in your diet:

  • Avoid deep-fried fast foods and takeaways
  • Limit manufactured biscuits, cakes, pastries and pies
  • Cut the visible fat off meat and remove the skin from chicken
  • Choose low-fat dairy foods
  • Limit cream and butter.
An Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) can provide nutrition and dietary advice on the most appropriate type and amount of fat to eat each day.