What should I look for related to fats on a nutrition label?

As you move toward a more heart-healthy diet, one of the things you will want to do is carefully read the Nutrition Facts panel on the side or back of packaged foods that you buy. While reading the whole label is important, one area you will want to pay close attention to is the information about fat content in the food. Some fats, namely saturated fat and trans-fat, are worse than others (mono unsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat). Too much total fat is also not healthy. You will always see grams of total fat, saturated fat, and trans-fat listed on a Nutrition Facts panel. This is required by law so that consumers are aware and can choose to avoid products high in total fat, saturated fat, and trans-fat.

Sometimes you will also see grams of monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat listed on the label. This is voluntary and usually is listed by a manufacturer to point out when a product has a more healthful fat profile.

Saturated Fat: A low-saturated food is defined by the Food and Drug Administration as 1 gram or less per serving and the food must provide less than 15 percent of calories from saturated fat. In general, it's best for heart health to eat foods that are low in saturated fat. But when you eat foods higher in saturated fat, you just need to balance them by eating foods lower in saturated fat for the rest of the day.

Trans Fat: No amount of trans-fat in the diet is beneficial. Therefore, when a food label indicates "0 grams of trans fat," that's ideal. However, even then a product may still have some trans-fat. Manufacturers are allowed to list "0 grams" of trans-fat if the product has less than 0.5 grams of trans-fat per serving. Some examples are tub margarines or peanut butter. Usually this isn't a problem if you eat one or two servings a day. However, if you were to eat many servings, this amount of trans-fat may add up. That's why it's also important to check the ingredient list on a label. If you find partially hydrogenated oil, you know there is some trans-fat in a product.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.