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The Myth of Zero Trans Fat Cookies

Trans fat is now known to significantly increase your risk for heart disease. In fact, Harvard Health Publications reports that trans fat is the unhealthiest type of dietary fat you can eat. Unfortunately, just because cookies are marketed as zero trans fat or trans-fat free, it doesn't mean this is the case.

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What is Trans Fat?

Most trans fats are made by a process called hydrogenation, which is adding hydrogen to vegetable oils to make fats solid at room temperature, improve the texture of foods, and enhance shelf life. These partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are the main source of trans fat in the U.S., notes the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Trans fats have historically been found in cookies, pastries, doughnuts, French fries, hard stick margarine, shortenings, pie crusts, frozen pizzas, crackers, cakes and biscuits, according to the American Heart Association. Trans fats are also found naturally (in small amounts) in meat and dairy foods.

Are Zero Trans Fat Cookies Free from Trans Fat?

Just because food products, including cookies, claim to be free from trans fat and list 0 grams of trans fat on nutrition facts labels doesn't mean they are entirely trans fat free. According to the FDA, food manufacturers can label foods as zero grams of trans fat as long as the food contains less than one-half gram of trans fat per serving. However, eating large quantities of foods with even a little trans fat can significantly increase your trans fat intake. The FDA suggests reading a food's ingredient list to determine whether or not it contains trans fat. Look for partially hydrogenated oil on the list, which is a main source of trans fat in the U.S.

Why are Trans Fats Still in Foods?

The FDA has taken steps to significantly lower trans fat in the food supply, such as requiring food manufacturers to list trans fat on food labels. In fact, Harvard Health Publications notes that some local governments banned trans fats in restaurant foods, and that trans fats are slowly disappearing from manufactured foods. However, the FDA notes that while food manufacturers are encouraged to eliminate partially hydrogenated oils from foods, trans fat won't ever be completely eliminated from the food supply because these fats occur naturally in very small amounts in meat, dairy foods and some oils.

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An experienced health, nutrition and fitness writer, Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian and holds a dietetics degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also has worked as a clinical dietitian and health educator in outpatient settings. Erin's work is published on popular health websites, such as TheNest.com and JillianMichaels.com.

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