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In transition: a guide to trans-free brands.

Trans fat is on its way out.

Since January 2006, when the government started requiring foods to include the artery-clogging fat on their Nutrition Facts labels, many companies have ditched the partially hydrogenated oils that contain trans.

That's good news for your arteries, since gram for gram, trans fat raises the risk of heart disease even more than saturated fat does, and since preliminary studies suggest that trans may promote diabetes. That's partly why experts recommend less than 2 grams of trans per day.

But trans fat still lurks in supermarket aisles. For example, it's hard to find frosting, croissants, apple turnovers, or stick margarines without trans. In contrast, it's hard to find frozen breaded fish and chicken, salty snacks, or tub margarines with trans.

Here's a sampling of foods that are in neither of those categories. Whether or not they have trans depends on which brand you buy.

Just remember that foods that boast about their "0 grams trans" could still be high in sugar, salt, refined carbs, or saturated fat (though they probably won't have more bad fat--saturated plus trans--than their trans-laden counterparts).

And don't forget restaurants. Even places that have sworn off partially hydrogenated oils for frying--like Ruby Tuesday, Chili's, and Romano's Macaroni Grill-may harbor trans in the breading, pastry crust, or chocolate coating that comes from their suppliers. (A few chains, like Legal Sea Foods, have no trans, period.)

The good news: as the supply of trans-free oils grows, more companies will switch. In fact, we're hoping that the brands shown here will start dumping their trans any minute now.

The information for this article was compiled by Kate Sherwood.

Go South

You wouldn't expect much trans fat in cheese. But a Celeste frozen Pizza for One has 5 grams of trans plus 4 grams of saturated fat (along with 1,080 mg of sodium). That's because Celeste uses imitation cheese--a mix of partially hydrogenated oil and casein, a milk protein. So do Jeno's and Totino's.

Most other frozen pizzas are only high in sat fat and sodium, but there are exceptions. A single-serve South Beach Harvest Wheat Crust Grilled Chicken & Vegetable Pizza, for example, has just 3 1/2 grams of sat fat, no trans fat, 600 mg of sodium, and a whole-grain crust. It also delivers 10 grams of fiber and 30 grams of protein per serving. Celeste, Jeno's, and Totino's have some catching up to do.

Keep No Secrets

Think popcorn is a healthy food? If it's popped in partially hydrogenated oil, it's the worst salty snack you can buy.

A third of a bag of Pop-Secret Homestyle Popcorn delivers 5 grams of trans fat plus 3 grams of saturated fat. If you polish off the entire bag, you've downed more than a day's heart gunk by the time the credits roll.

Jiffy Pop and Jolly Time are no better. And companies like Orville Redenbacher and Newman's Own use (trans-free) palm oil in their regular popcorn, but that gives each serving 5 grams of saturated fat.

Instead, reach for Newman's Own 94% Fat Free (no sat fat) or Orville's 94% Fat Free SmartPop (1/2 gram of sat fat). Both are trans-free.

Pop-Secret also makes a 94% Fat Free with "0 grams trans." But it has partially hydrogenated oil, so it could supply more than 1 gram of trans fat if you eat more than a third of a bag. (Labels can say "0 grams trans" if a serving has less than 1/2 gram.)

Toss Some Cookies

It's not just Famous Amos. You can still find trans fat in Archway, Keebler, and many store brands of cookies. In contrast, Nabisco and Pepperidge Farm have little or no trans.

For example, an ounce of Famous Amos Oatmeal Raisins (four cookies) has 2 grams of trans fat plus 2 grams of saturated fat.

You're better off with Nabisco Honeymaid Oatmeal Raisins. An ounce (three cookies) has less than 1/2 gram of trans and just 1 gram of sat fat.

Nabisco uses mostly soybean oil, but adds some partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, which may give the cookies a touch of trans. (The package says "0 grams trans fat," which is legit as long as a serving has less than 1/2 gram of trans.)

Your best bet: Kashi's new line of TLC cookies, which are made with no hydrogenated oils, little sat fat, and whole grains (see back cover).

More is Less

"10% More than Nestle Ultimate," say Pillsbury Ready to Bake Big Deluxe Chocolate Chip cookies. They may be 10% bigger, but they're also more than 10% badder.

Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Lovers Ultimates have no trans fat and 4 1/2 grams of saturated fat each, while Pillsbury's have 3 1/2 grams of sat plus 2 grams (more than a day's worth) of trans. So when it comes to bad fat, Pillsbury has 20 percent more than Nestle.

Judging by most of its frostings, biscuits, toaster pastries, and cinnamon rolls, Pillsbury must think its customers aren't savvy enough to worry about trans.

No trans doesn't turn Nestle's 180-calorie cookies into mini broccoli stalks. But it does make them 100% better than Pillsbury's.

Not Your Mom's Apple Pie

"Our story begins over 50 years ago, in 1948, when Marie Callender first baked pies for local restaurants," says the box.

"Baking from scratch, Marie used only the finest ingredients and put such love and care into each and every pie that people took notice."

Finest ingredients? Partially hydrogenated oils give each 350-calorie slice of her Apple Pie 5 grams of trans fat plus 4 1/2 grams of saturated fat.

In contrast, a similar-size slice of Sara Lee Apple Pie has no trans and 7 grams of sat fat from a mixture of palm, soy, and cottonseed oils. Mrs. Smith's Apple Pie--with 7 grams of sat fat and less than 1/2 gram of trans--is a close second.

That doesn't turn either one into health food. But pie crusts need some semi-solid fat to stay flaky, and Sara's and the Missus's oils beat Marie's "love and care" hands down.

Tater Nots

McCain potatoes have no trans. But Ore-Ida, owned by Heinz, still uses enough partially hydrogenated oil to give every three-ounce serving of its fries I or 2 grams of trans.

Is Heinz betting that no one knows about the American Heart Association's advice to limit trans fat to less than 2 grams a day?

On the fast-food front, Wendy's and KFC have announced that they're going to switch to healthier frying oils. Meanwhile, a large order of fries from McDonald's or Burger King still has 6 to 8 grams of trans (plus 6 grams of saturated fat).

You can have it whose way?
COPYRIGHT 2007 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:SPECIAL FEATURE
Author:Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Apr 1, 2007
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