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Trans fats are a specific type of fat that is bad for your health, especially heart health. Not only do trans fats increase bad cholesterol levels in the blood (LDL cholesterol), they also decrease the good type of blood cholesterol (HDL cholesterol). That is why trans fats are often referred to as the worst type of dietary fat.
Naturally occurring trans fats
Low levels of trans fats (2% to 6% of total fat) are naturally present in dairy products, beef and lamb. These naturally occurring trans fats are not as much of a concern, as they are present in very small amounts and may not have the same negative effects as artificial trans fats.
Artificial trans fats should be avoided
Artificial trans fats are created during a process called partial hydrogenation, when liquid oils are turned into a semi-solid form. It is these artificial fats that are a major concern. Food manufacturers have used partial hydrogenation to create products with desirable textures, flavours and an extended shelf life. Since 2005, the mandatory declaration of trans fats in the Nutrition Facts table had contributed to significantly reduce the number of products with artificial trans fat. Health Canada is still working on measures to eliminate trans fats from food products.
Trans fats can still be found in some types of commercially prepared foods in food categories such as:
- Crackers, cookies, snack foods
- Baked goods like donuts, cakes, pastries, muffins, croissants
- Fried foods such as french fries, breaded chicken and fast foods
- Waffles and pancakes
- Hard margarine that is not non-hydrogenated.
Some refined liquid oils may also contain small amounts of trans fats (0.5 to 2.5% of oil).