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The Fat of the Matter is, American's Don't Know Which Foods Contain Bad Fats
Written by February 26, 2009

Rachel Huber, MPH, RD

Associate Director of Education
The Cooper Institute

The fat of the matter is, American’s don’t know which foods contain bad fats

A new study suggests that while most Americans know they should limit unhealthy saturated and trans fats, few know which specific foods to avoid. Published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers present findings from a study that surveyed 1,000 adults in 2006 and 2007 about their awareness, knowledge, and behaviors related to fats and oils and their perceived impact on heart disease.

Positive findings during the 1-year study period included: increases in awareness of trans fat; increases in perceptions that trans fats, saturated fats, and partially hydrogenated oils increase the risk of heart disease; and improved behaviors related to trans fat information, such as buying food products because they show "zero trans fat" on the label or package.

Negative findings during the 1-year study period included: knowledge about food sources of different fats remained low. Only 21% of study participants could list three food sources of trans fat (up only slightly from 17% in 2006) and 30% could list three food sources of saturated fat (unchanged from 2006).

Therefore, while national consumer education campaigns like "Face the Fats" launched in 2007 by the American Heart Association are likely increasing awareness of unhealthy fats, more education is needed on which specific foods contain saturated and trans fats.

So here it is…

Foods High in Saturated Fat: Lard, butter, fatty beef, pastries, cookies, dairy products, whole milk, coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil

Foods High in Trans Fat: French fries, doughnuts, pastries, hard margarine, vegetable shortening, cookies, and crackers

Where Else to Look for Fat Facts: The Nutrition Facts Panel on food labels lists grams per serving of saturated and trans fat; the Ingredient List also provides "red flags" for trans fats (e.g., partially hydrogenated oils) and saturated fats (e.g., palm kernel oil); it is important to look at both the saturated and trans fat content on food labels because food manufacturers often take out one and replace it with the other!

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