Hidden health hazards in your food

March 11, 2010 3:23:52 PM PST
Some of your favorite foods may have hidden fat in them. The information is not always listed on the nutrition label. So what do you need to be looking out for?

The fat you eat can set you up for illness or health problems. Red meat fat raises bad cholesterol, a culprit for heart disease. Most oils lower bad cholesterol, and protect your heart.

But what about trans fats?

Do you ever feel you should be behind bars when shopping for serving unhealthy food to your family or friends? If you don't read labels, there are some who think you should be.

"I read labels to know what's going into a product and what's going into me and my family," one shopper said.

You should especially look for trans fats in products. Basically, trans fats are oils which have been chemically processed into solids. They can give foods a smooth mouth feel.

But trans fat-rich foods can also make you a target for heart disease and diabetes.

"Many people are trying to avoid trans fats, and this is very appealing to the food industry, who don't want you to know that there are some lurking in their products," said Lauren Graf, a registered dietician with Montefiore Medical Center.

Lurking under the "zero trans fat" package label is an FDA law that still allows a half a gram of trans fat per food serving. Serving sizes are generally small. Most of us eat several servings and can get more trans fats than we think.

There's tricky wording too. Hidden in the ingredients - partially hydrogenated oil - another name for trans fat.

Eyewitness News found an artificial creamer that had partially hydrogenated oils. Experts say you are better off using half and half.

And butter is better than solid margarine.

"Butter has natural fats that will raise your bad cholesterol, but margarine has trans fats that not only raise the bad cholesterol but also lower the good cholesterol," Graf said.

As for healthy snacks, nuts don't have trans fats.

The NYC Green Carts offer a very affordable way to get fruits that are packed with nutrients and are, of course, trans fat free.

Unlike nuts and fresh fruits, prepared foods such as cookies and packaged pastries have trans fats, which act as preservatives. Fast food restaurants can be real offenders for trans fats, so make sure you read their food labels for partially hydrogenated oils.