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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Trans Fat in Lactose-Free Margarines

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act that went into effect on January 1 does more than just require the prominent labeling of allergens in the ingredients list.

(See Major Change in Labeling Law Scheduled for January 1.)

Another change is the requirement that the amount of trans fats be listed along with the amount of saturated fats. Trans fats are now thought to be the worst type of fats in foods, as this FDA QandA reveals:

Q: What ARE trans fatty acids?
A: Trans fatty acids (or “trans fat”) are fats found in foods such as vegetable shortening, some margarines, crackers, candies, baked goods, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, salad dressings, and many processed foods.



Q: Why Should I Care About Trans fat?
A: It’s important to know about trans fat because there is a direct, proven relationship between diets high in trans fat content and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and, therefore, an increased risk of coronary heart disease – a leading cause of death in the US.



Q: Aren’t ALL Fats Bad?
A: No. There are “good” fats and “bad” ones, just like there’s good and bad blood cholesterol. Saturated fats and trans fat have bad effects on cholesterol levels. Polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats (such as olive oil, canola oil, soybean oil, and corn oil) have good effects.



Q: How much trans fat is too much?
A: There is research currently underway to determine this. However, it is true and accurate to say that the less saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol consumed the better. Trans fat while pervasive in many of the foods we eat is not “essential” to any healthy diet.



Trans fats are a special problem in foods made almost entirely of fats, like margarines. In my Product Clearinghouse I have a page listing Nondairy Margarines. All of them are lactose-free and I believe that all of them are casein-free as well. The usual disclaimer: Ingredients change without warning. Always check the package to be sure.

What's the trans fat contents of these margarines? A good question that was fortuitously answered in the January/February 2006 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter, the publication of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

I've tried to match their data to the brands and varieties listed on my site. Remember, the lower the Bad Fat the better. Here's the results:

Total Fat – ToF; Saturated Fat – SF; Trans Fat – TrF; Saturated + Trans Fat=Bad Fat – BF; all are measured in grams

Benecol
  • 55% Vegetable Oil (tub) ToF – 8; SF – 1; TrF – 0; BF – 1
  • Light – 37% Vegetable Oil (tub) ToF – 5; SF – 0.5; TrF – 0; BF – 0.5


Canoleo

  • 100% Canola Margarine (tub) ToF – 11; SF – 2; TrF – 2; BF – 4


Earth Balance

  • Natural Buttery Spread (tub) ToF – 11; SF – 3.5; TrF – 0; BF – 3.5
  • Soy Garden Natural Buttery Spread (tub) ToF – 11; SF – 3.5; TrF – 0; BF – 3.5
  • Natural Buttery Sticks ToF – 11; SF – 4.5; TrF – 0; BF – 4.5


Fleischmann's

  • Sweet Unsalted Margarine (tub) ToF – 8; SF – 1.5; TrF – 0; BF – 1.5
  • Sweet Unsalted Margarine (stick) ToF – 11; SF – 2; TrF – n/a; BF – n/a
  • Light Margarine (tub) ToF – 5; SF – 0; TrF – 0; BF – 0
  • Light Margarine (stick) ToF – 5; SF – 1; TrF – n/a; BF – n/a


Mother's – not listed


Smart

  • Smart Balance Light Buttery Spread (tub) ToF – 5; SF – 1.5; TrF – 0; BF – 1.5
  • Smart Beat Super Light Margarine (tub) ToF – 2; SF – 0; TrF – 0; BF – 0
  • Smart Squeeze Fat-Free Margarine ToF – 0; SF – 0; TrF – 0; BF – 0


Spectrum

  • Natural Spread (tub) ToF – 10; SF – 0.5; TrF – 0; BF – 0.5
  • Natural Spread Essential Omerga-3 (tub) ToF – 10; SF – 1; TrF – 0; BF – 1
  • Organic (tub) – not listed


Willow Run

  • Soybean Margarine (tub) ToF – 11; SF – 2; TrF – 0; BF – 2


The Healthletter rates any margarine with Bad Fat of 1 or less a Best Bite. Those with 1.5 rate Honorable Mention.

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