By now you may have noticed that I’m never impressed by those labels slapped on packaged foods that shout “FAT FREE!”
These labels are designed to confound and misinform you and me. They hide important information, and use all kinds of numerical tricks to make sure you’re never quite fully aware of what you’re eating.
While fat is generally not your enemy (carbs are), the overwhelming scientific evidence for this fact is discussed in detail in my book, The Body Heals. However, there is one kind of fat we should be avoiding: trans fats that come from partially hydrogenated oils.
These largely unnatural fats had been a favorite of the fast food and snack industry for generations, until recent rules required them to be spelled out on package labels – and banned outright in some places.
And that’s given us an even more meaningless label slapped on product packages throughout the supermarket “TRANS FAT FREE!”
Not only is it meaningless because it tricks the consumer into thinking they’re buying something healthy, but it’s meaningless because it may not even be true.
It turns out there’s a loophole on that label regulation, one that means even those “trans fat free” products could have trans fats in them.
Manufacturers are often allowed or even required to round ingredients up or down. In some cases, they’re allowed to round down to zero, even when that ingredient is present in their product.
So, for example, the manufacturer of a product containing 0.49 grams of trans fat per serving can round that down to zero – and put “zero” in the trans fat column on the label and slap that “TRANS FAT FREE!” banner across the front of the package.
Remember, that’s per serving. Think of how small those serving sizes often are, especially when it comes to something like a buttery spread.
Many experts believe the limit on trans fat consumption should be around 2 grams per day. So if you have just four servings of a “trans fat free” product that really has 0.49 grams, you’ve already just about reached that limit – without even realizing it.
It’s sad, because in recent years consumers have gotten much better at reading product labels and trying to understand what’s in their food. Yet at the same time, companies have gotten so much better at hiding information from us.
There is a way to avoid the worst of the trans fats altogether: Skip packaged foods, snacks and frozen meals. Enjoy your fish, steaks, poultry and veggies – the healthy items you find in the perimeter of the supermarket.
Some of these products have a certain amount of natural trans fats, but if you’re eating right overall you don’t have to worry about those.
Remember, the best foods don’t have a label to mislead you – because nature didn’t put them into a package.
Dr. William B. Ferril
Dr. William B. Ferril's medical practice in Whitefish, Montana has become a beacon of hope for people throughout the country seeking relief from some of medicine’s most heartbreaking diseases. He also spent a decade practicing medicine on the Flathead Indian reservation in Western Montana.
Latest posts by Dr. William B. Ferril (see all)
- The MRI Myth - November 3, 2009
- Our Dark Journey into Depression - October 27, 2009
- Wine Can Help Ease Side Effects of Cancer Treatment - October 6, 2009