(NaturalNews) Sure, foods containing trans fat taste great and stay fresh longer, but they are also bad for your health in a multitude of ways, including raising bad cholesterol, lowering good cholesterol and increasing inflammation. Also known as "trans fatty acids" and "partially hydrogenated oils," trans fat is created by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils and can be found in a shocking number of foods. The good news? You don't have to just swallow it. Read on to learn the top fat foods to avoid. By crossing these five worst offenders off your list, you can enjoy better heart health.
Margarine -- a solid form of vegetable oil -- made a huge scene during the 1960s and 1970s when it was touted as a healthier choice than butter. However, many popular varieties rely on hydrogenated oils to take stick form. If you are eating margarine in solid form, you are likely ingesting large quantities of trans fat -- as many as 2 grams per tablespoon, in fact. (1)
Considering that the American Heart Association recommends that no more than 1 percent of total daily caloric intake come from trans fat, this is a significant number. Look at it this way: If you consume 2,000 calories a day, a mere 20 calories should derive from trans fat. In other words, just 2 grams. (2)
Mama's little baby may like shortening bread, but its leading ingredient is one of the worst offenders when it comes to trans fats. Why? Because products we know as "vegetable shortening" are full of partially hydrogenated oils.
If you hope to rely on food labels to determine safe products, think again: The FDA permits companies to round down on nutrition labels, so a product with 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving may be listed as having "0 grams" of trans fat. Multiplied across several servings or in combination with other unhealthy foods, these trace amounts add up to dangerous levels.
3. Commercial Baked Goods
From cookies, cakes and brownies to pies, muffins and donuts, baked goods are irresistible to many modern appetites. Unfortunately, nearly all of these foods -- particularly fast foods, snack foods and processed foods -- contain trans fat. Why? Because not only do trans fats improve the taste and texture of these treats, but they also extend their shelf lives.
If you don't have access to a food's "Nutrition Facts," avoiding all of these tasty treats is your safest bet -- unless a product is labeled as "trans fat-free," or has been baked by a local baker with whom you can discuss its ingredients.
4. Fried and Battered Food
Restaurants have their pick of deep-frying oils, but many prefer partially hydrogenated oil. Why? Ultimately it's a bottom-line matter: Partially hydrogenated oil doesn't go rancid as quickly as the alternatives.
And while some restaurants have switched over to non-hydrogenated oil, others have ignored the imperative, reporting horrifyingly high trans fat content. For example, White Castle's Homestyle Onion Rings Sack contains 30 grams of trans fat, KFC's Chicken Pot Pie contains 14 grams of trans fat, and a large order of Burger King Hash Browns contains 13 grams. Meanwhile, it can be challenging to find nutritional menu information for independent local restaurants and eateries, so the best option may be to avoid fried and battered food completely when dining out. (3)
5. Coffee Creamer
If you think that you're making the healthy choice by choosing non-dairy creamer for your morning caffeine fix, think again: Coffee creamer is a little known source of trans fat.
Again, trusting labels can get you into trouble: While some products claim to have 0 grams of trans fat, they still list partially hydrogenated oils toward the top of their ingredient lists. If you have multiple cups of coffee a day, you are likely exceeding your daily recommended intake before the workday even gets started.
Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has declared that trans fats are unsafe for consumption, so why are they still littering our grocery store shelves? (4) Rather than crossing your fingers and trusting labels, take your health into your own hands by carefully inspecting Nutrition Facts panels and avoiding these five worst offenders.