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Fat Free

We've reported on why "low fat" foods actually make you fat. We're told we should especially avoid "trans fats," but most of us don't know what they are.

High consumption of trans fat, found mainly in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and widely used by the food industry, has been linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease. New York and Philadelphia have passed measures eliminating its use in restaurants, and other cities are considering similar bans.

When it comes to packaged and prepared foods, trans fats are just about everywhere. Dietician Kristen Albani says that most trans fats are artificially created by adding hydrogen to liquid oil. Trans fats don't spoil as quickly as oils, spread easily, and add taste and texture to food. What's so bad about them is that they raise total cholesterol and LDL (?bad?) cholesterol. Trans fats may also lower HDL ("good") cholesterol. These changes can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. Some researchers think this may be because, since they are an "artificial" food, our bodies haven't evolved the ability to cope with them.

To avoid trans fat, stay away from fried foods, packaged foods and "fast food." In your own cooking, use mono and polyunsaturated fats such as canola, olive, sunflower and safflower oil instead of fats that are solid at room temperature. Fats that occur naturally in nuts and seafood are actually good for your heart.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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