Last week’s article touched on the process of reading nutritional labels on packaged food products. With any luck this kept you busy in Foodies this week. Hopefully you are feeling a little more confident in examining the sugar content of food. This week’s article takes a look at the fat content as labeled on food products. I will use the same label as last week to make things a little easier.
Step 1. Find the section of the food label titled Fat, Total. Under this will appear a breakdown of the sorts of fat that the total fat content is made of (not all fats are created equal). Below is a brief description of each sort of fat.
- Saturated – from a health perspective these are the fats to consume least of as they are the main cause of high cholesterol and heart disease. Saturated fats are found in animal products, including meat and dairy, and certain plant oils such as palm, palm kernel and coconut oils.
- Trans – these are man-made “hydrogenated” oils which are often used in fast foods and can be found in solid oils such as margarine. Due to the artificial nature of these fats they are best avoided altogether.
- Polyunsaturated – Often referred to as a ‘good fat’ or ‘unsaturated fat’ polyunsaturated fats have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and lower instance of heart attack. You can find polyunsaturated fats in nuts, seeds, fish, algae, and other leafy greens. For health benefits always select whole food sources, as processing and heating may damage these types of fats.
- Monounsaturated – Another one of the ‘good fats’ monounsaturated fat, like polyunsaturated fat can help lower total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. Found in natural foods such as red meat, whole milk products, nuts, olives and avocados. Olive oil is contains around 75% monounsaturated fat, and canola oil approximately 58%. Other sources of monounsaturated fat include macadamia nut oil, grape seed oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, popcorn, whole grain wheat, cereal, oatmeal, safflower oil, almond oil, sunflower oil, and avocado oil.
So how do you apply the above information when reading nutritional labels on food products?
With the exception of vegetarians, most modern diets contain a high amount of meat and dairy products, all of which contain high amounts of saturated fat. Therefore the consumption of saturated fats from other food items needs to be kept minimal to ensure good health.
For label reading ease we are just going to look at the 2 rows labeled Saturated fat and Trans fat. When purchasing products try and limit the saturated fat content to less than 6 grams per 100 grams. Try and avoid Trans fats altogether, but if unavoidable keep to an absolute minimum.
If Trans fats are not listed on your packaged item, don’t worry that Is probably a good sign there are none lurking anywhere.