Are Bans the Answer?
Not necessarily, says Tallmadge. The restrictions aren't better for consumers if, in order to comply with new rules, fast-food cooks and restaurant chefs replace trans fats with lard or palm oil, which is high in saturated fat (this raises blood levels of LDL and total cholesterol, heart-disease risk factors).
The real solution, says Tallmadge, is knowing how the food you're eating was prepared and substituting heart-healthy oils for trans-fats-loaded shortenings and stick margarines when cooking. "It can be done," she says. "I've seen recipes for chocolate cake that call for olive oil. And walnut oil works well in cookies and pancakes or you can try peanut oil with French fries.
Here's a list of heart-healthy oils to keep handy when shopping:
* Nut (like hazelnut, peanut, or walnut)
* Sunflower, corn or soybean
Label Smarts: What to Scan For
The trans-fats bans don't include packaged foods, so be your own health inspector and take a close look at a product's packaging before adding it to your shopping cart. You're looking for products containing zero grams of trans fats. But be aware: A product can advertise "0 trans fats!" if it has 0.5g or less per serving, so also be sure to check the ingredients list for partially hydrogenated oils.
The American Heart Association recommends that less than 1 percent of daily calories come from trans fats. Based on a diet of 2,000 a day, that's 20 calories (less than 2g) max. Still, it's not enough to eliminate trans fats—you want to look at the saturated fat line as well. The American Diabetes Association recommends that no more than 7 percent of your total calories be saturated fat—for many people, that is about 15g a day.