Decoding Trans Fat Product Claims by Smart Balance

Smart Balance is using a very good marketing tool to grab shoppers’ attention by discussing trans fat.

smart balance

One Tbsp. of Smart Balance Buttery Spread has 80 calories, 9g fat, and 90mg sodium.

Before we dive into their claim, let’s do a quick trans fat 101.

  • Trans fat (aka trans fatty acids, partially hydrogenated oils) are created in an industrial process, by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils, making them more solid.
  • Trans fat is used because it’s easy and inexpensive to produce. These products have a longer shelf life and it gives desirable taste and texture.
  • However, trans fat is terrible for your health! They raise LDL (bad) cholesterol & lower HDL (good) cholesterol; therefore increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke!
  • It’s tricky! There are naturally occurring trans fat in products (beef, lamb, and butterfat). Research is still trying to figure out whether the naturally occurring trans fat has the same bad effect on cholesterol levels as the industrial manufactured trans fat.

The FDA’s final rule on trans fat labeling on products is that they require:

“The amount of trans fat in a serving be listed on a separate line under saturated fat on the Nutrition Facts panel. However, trans fat doesn’t have to be listed if the total fat if a food is less than 0.5 gram (½ gram) per serving and no claims are made about fat, fatty acids or cholesterol content. If it’s not listed, a footnote will be added stating that the food is not a significant source of trans fat.”

The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of trans fat consumed to less than 1% of your totally daily calories (i.e. less than 2 grams a day). Given the amount of naturally occurring trans fats you probably eat every day, this leaves virtually no room at all for industrially manufactured trans fats. Smart Balance is capitalizing on the this, by not having to mention trans fat, and released a commercial called “The Truth About Trans Fat,” discussing the truth about trans fat labeling on products.

A trans fat comparison of popular butter brands. (via Smart Balance)

A trans fat comparison of popular butter brands. (via Smart Balance)

Smart Balance does a great job of bringing this to our attention. We need to be more alert when grocery shopping and truly trying not to purchase processed foods.

Read the food label! Anything with partially hydrogenated oil, hydrogenated oil or shortening mentioned then you are consuming some amount of trans fat. You need to look for natural oils like canola, soybean, etc. on the label, these are more desirable for your health!

I’m not pushing Smart Balance, but it appears to be a good product. I suggest reading the label and making the best decision for your nutritional needs.

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