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The Skinny On: Natural Trans Fats

Fat. It keeps us full. It flavors our food. It gives us energy. It also clogs our arteries and raises our cholesterol levels. While some fats are better than others, others are just plain bad for you - like trans fats.

Trans fats are generally formed when liquid vegetable oils go through a chemical process called hydrogenation. Hydrogen is added to oils to make them more solid and food processors love to use them to extend the shelf life of food, as well as to better taste and texture. Not all trans fats are manufactured though, some do occur naturally, in small amounts. They can be found in some meat, a quarter pound of ground beef has 1.33 grams of trans fat, and one cup of milk has .24 grams.

Fear not New Yorkers, the city is only banning artificial trans fats, so you will still be able to eat cheeseburgers in the Big Apple. The truth is, the majority of Americans eat more artificial trans fat than the naturally occurring kind,

The FDA, however, has a different take, and they group all trans fats, be they artificially or naturally occurring, all the same. In 2006, the FDA began requiring manufacturers to list on their products if they contain a half a gram or more of trans fat per serving. The amount must be included on the food label and the food can’t be called trans fat-free, even if butter (naturally occurring) is the only fat. Another reason to read ingredients carefully.

Want to know about trans fat and Starbucks? Then

Interestingly enough, the FDA label rule does not apply to foods overseen by the US Department of Agriculture, namely meat and poultry. That is why you will not see the amount of trans fat listed on the ground beef you pick up at the grocery.

Starbucks is taking a slightly different route than NYC and asking all their bakers to remove all but .5 grams of trans fat, artificial or otherwise, from their baked goods. The company feels that "trans fat free" reads better than "artificial trans fat free" - guess they think we consumers can only handle three word descriptions of our food. Bakers are reworking recipes that use butter to ensure their pastries have under a half a gram of trans fat to satisfy the new requirement. Many large scale bakeries are on the hunt for trans fat free margarine.

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Join The Conversation
Annabean Annabean 8 years
Everyone makes some very good points
SU3 SU3 8 years
It's gotten really ridiculous. ALWAYS read the label before buying.. no matter what it says on the front!
ccsugar ccsugar 8 years
So you could have 4 cups of milk and that is roughly 1 gram of trans fat?? Scary!!!
jathemelis jathemelis 8 years
There is no comparison between naturally occurring trans fats and artificial one. You REALLY want to avoid Partially Hydrogenated oils, even if the label says no trans fats, if this is listed in the ingrediants STAY AWAY. I reccomend Dr. Weil's book 8 Weeks to Optimum Health, he gives you the real deal.
amandasunly amandasunly 8 years
I wish it applied here! I don't think it does yet though - only in 10 cities in the US. I had Starbucks on Saturday night (Banana Mango Frappuccino with a Cranberry and Orange Muffin) and Sunday afternoon (Banana Java Chip Frappuccino with an Oreo cheesecake)! I felt so guilty afterwards! Good thing today's Meatless Monday. And I'm not eating any dessert either.
mandiesoh mandiesoh 8 years
fantastic. i hang out at starbucks alot (TOO MUCH for my pocket! :( ), but im not sure if this applies to their franchise here in Singapore? i should hope so! any dirt on their drinks fit?
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