Heart disease is the leading cause of death among Americans: on average, one person dies every 39 seconds, according to recently published data from the American Heart Association.
I've talked in the past about cutting back on saturated fat (found mostly in animal-based products like red meat and full-fat dairy), added sugars and sodium for better heart health. Keep working at those!
But one thing that I haven't talked about much happens to be one of the easiest to limit (or avoid) in your diet—and it's quite harmful to your heart health. What is it? Trans fat.
Why are trans fats so harmful?
Like saturated fat, trans fat raises your "bad" LDL cholesterol, possibly even more than saturated fats, according to research. Trans fat also lowers your "good" HDL cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of trans fat you eat daily to less than 1 percent of your total calories. If you eat 2,000 calories a day, that translates to about 2 (or fewer) grams.
How can you limit, or eliminate trans fat from your diet?
The easiest way to avoid trans fat is by skipping foods that contain "hydrogenated oil" or "partially hydrogenated oil" in their ingredient lists. Big culprits include packaged snacks, crackers, bakery goods and some margarines. (Here are 6 packaged foods you can feel good about eating.) Read labels carefully: if a package claims "zero trans fat," the amount per serving may be less than 0.5 g and could have been rounded down to zero, so the only way to be sure you're getting a product without trans fat is to read ingredient lists.
Trans fats are also found naturally—albeit in small amounts—in animal products, such as beef, pork, lamb and the butterfat in butter and milk. Limiting how much beef, pork, lamb and butter you eat and swapping full-fat dairy products, like milk and cheese, for low- or nonfat versions will help too.
Do you try to limit how much trans fat you eat? Tell us what you think below.