Help with food labels - fat

Discussion in 'Healthful Living / Natural Treatments' started by flutterbee, Aug 7, 2008.

  1. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    If a product contains 5g of Total Fat and Saturated Fat is 1% and there is 0 Trans fat, does this mean the rest is poly- or monounsaturated fats? If not, what is the rest of the fat?

    I'm really trying to do good. My triglycerides were good, but my HDL is a little low and my LDL is really high so I need to do better.

  2. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Labels can get confusing when they mix percentages with grams and %RDI etc.

    If it says "5 g total fat" it should also say 5 g in however many grams of the product. I'm assuming it said 5 g total fat in 100 g product? That is the usual. Sometimes they do it by "serving size" (watch out for that one, it can be very misleading) or by total amount.

    I've seen examples of, say, a 500 ml carton of yogurt. It can give nutrition details for the total amount, or per 100 g (compulsory, for us) and also for serving size. Sometimes "serving size" can make it look more attractive - you pick it up and see that the amounts are really low "per serve" and forget to check that maybe THEIR idea of a serve is not yours. The 500 ml yogurt which you could happily scoff in one or two sittings might be described as having 10 serves in it! Or eight and a half... or whatever the manufacturer chooses, to make it look like a good thing.

    So always look for the nutritional information "per 100 g" (or per 100 ml - same as g for watery/milky things). That way you are as close as possible to comparing apples with apples.

    Back to your problem - 5 g total fat in 100 g product is the same as 5% fat. If the saturated fat is 1% of the total fats, then that means 1% of 5 g which is really tiny. But I suspect you've been the victim of attempted misleading promotional packaging - the "1% saturated fat" means that in every 100 g, 1 g is saturated fat. That is 20% of the total fat, in this case. Not bad, but not as good as 1% of 5% (which would be 0.05%, or negligible).

    If the other fats aren't specified (and they should be, at least in the nutritional info) then you can only assume that they are mono- and poly-unsaturated.

    If unsure and it's a product fairly high in fat (such as margarine or similar) then look at how solid the product is at room temperature. Polyunsaturates and monosaturates tend to be liquid at room temperature. The more saturated a fat, the higher the melting point.
    Trans fats were invented as a way to get around that - turning a good oil into a trans fat makes it more solid at room temperature, which meant that good oils could be incorporated into products like margarine and make them more solid while still being healthy - a great idea, until it was discovered that trans fats AREN'T healthy like it was believed; they are just as unhealthy as saturated fats after all. So trans fats are now being dumped (for internal use, anyway - they'd be OK in cosmetics). Instead of possibly OK and a high-tech way to have your healthy oils and eat them too (in a solid spread), trans fats are worse than useless.

    Fats and oils can be confusing to understand, and manufacturers trying to sell you THEIR product don't make it any easier.

    So here's a quick lesson.
    Fats and oils are the same thing. We tend to use the term "fat" to describe something solid at room temperature, and "oil" for something liquid. But room temperature can fluctuate and oils can vary a bit too. I can make home-made basil pesto using a good olive oil and find it sets solid in the fridge.

    Even more confusing - you deep fry something in canola (or similar vegetable oil) and pour off the oil into a jar to use up later. But sometimes the oil in the jar thickens up or even sets, even though it's not had anything added to it. All that has happened is it got heated. But if it got REALLY hot, the unsaturated bonds may have broken and saturated - this has raised the melting point of the oil. That's why some oils are not as good for you if you overheat them. Hence - trans fats, which are polyunsaturated oils to begin with, which have been artificially saturated.

    Another thing to know - oils/fats of vegetable origin NEVER contain cholesterol (unless some lunatic added some). Only animal fats can contain cholesterol, because plants don't make it. We need SOME cholesterol because chemically the structure is used by our bodies to make many of our hormones. However, we don't need to over-indulge in order to make sure we have enough cholesterol.

    If you see a bottle of vegetable oil labelled "light" or the cutesy "lite", this does not mean it is healthier. It only refers to colour and/or flavour. Some people prefer a full-flavoured deep green olive oil, while others (who might want to use it for something very delicately flavoured) want something far less obtrusive. That's the only difference.

    I get really cranky when I'm in the supermarket and I see people reaching for the olive oil labelled "lite" or "cholesterol-free" instead of the more plainly (and honestly) packaged varieties. By buying the misleadingly labelled oils people are rewarding manufacturers' dishonesty.

    Manufacturers often get away with some very misleading labelling all over the package, but they can't get it wrong with the nutritional information window. THAT must be accurate because it is a legal requirement in a lot of countries. And if there is a discrepancy between the nutritional info box and anything elsewhere on the packaging, trust the info box and not the advertising.

  3. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    Gosh, I had forgotten I posted this. Sorry. :916blusher:

    Thanks, Marg. I assumed the fat not listed was poly- or monounsaturated, but I wasn't sure. Didn't know if there was some other kind of fat lurking out there that I wasn't aware of.

    And you do have to watch those serving sizes. That's where you get into trouble.

    And from what we are lead to believe, Trans Fat is *more* unhealthy than saturated fat. Since a study was widely publicized last year that just 2g of saturated fat per day (can't remember the per number of calories) tripled the heart attack risk, most companies have removed it - or greatly reduced - the amount of trans fat in their products. And I always read the labels and if it has 'hydrogenized' anything, I don't buy it as that means trans fat (US law only requires anything .5g or more per serving to be a product can have .49g of trans fat and still label it as 0g).

    Interestingly enough, I picked up the medical magazine with that study article in it at my daughter's pediatrician's office the day I had my heart attack.