This article was published in the February/March 2006 Wedge newsletter. The following information may be outdated.

Trans Fats

The New Labels and what you need to know

As of January 1, 2006, all packaged foods are required to specify the content of trans fats on nutrition labels. It is easy to avoid added trans fats, which show up on ingredient lists as partially-hydrogenated oil. Very few products Wedge carries contain these artificially hardened oils.

Warning: FDA allows rounding off on the nutrition labels. A product with under 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving can be labeled as "zero grams trans" or "trans free." So continue to read ingredient lists. Any amount of partially hydrogenated oil means there is some trans fat content, no matter what is listed on the nutrition label.

A handful of foods contain naturally occurring trans fats that are actually health-promoting, nothing like their artificial cousins. These are especially plentiful in products from grass-fed animals. Dietary guidelines from the American Heart Association and the FDA recommend keeping trans fat intake at less than 1% of calories, about 2 grams in an 1,800 calorie diet. That's about the amount of natural trans fat found in a diet containing meat and dairy.