The American Heart Association (AHA) has released new guidelines that encourage consumers to limit their consumption of trans fats to less than 1 percent of their total calories.
Though the AHA is the first major health group in the United States to specifically urge a reduction in dietary trans fats, consumers should note that the organization failed to recommend avoiding all trans fats, which promote heart disease by raising levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol. The AHA cited Americans' frequent eating-out habits as a challenge to entirely avoiding the unhealthy fats.
Trans fats -- also known as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils -- are found in many fast foods, as well as in manufactured foods such as crackers, cookies and cakes. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recently sued KFC in an attempt to get the company to stop frying its foods in trans fats. Fast food chain Wendy's also recently announced that, starting in August, it would remove trans fats from its chicken and fries.
In addition to recommending cutting back on trans fats, the new AHA guidelines also include lifestyle recommendations, such as avoiding smoking and getting enough exercise. According to Tufts University nutrition expert Alice Lichtenstein, who acted as chair of the guidelines panel, consumers should balance calories eaten with calories burned through exercise, rather than simply count calories and fat grams. The guidelines also urge the public to focus on consuming and cooking with healthier oils.
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