Q: The labels on my foods are so confusing! I think trans-fats are bad but what’s the difference between those and the regular kind of fat? I mean, isn’t all fat bad? Help!
A: No. No. No. All fats are not bad! Our bodies need some fats to be healthy (you’ve heard all the talk about omega-3 fats, I’m sure)
However, I know that nutrition labels, no matter how simply designed, still look like a bunch of numbers on a grid.
The section that you are looking at called “total fat” specifies the amount of total fat plus the amounts of the two most dangerous types of fats—saturated and trans.
You’ll notice that for “total fat” and “saturated fat” there is a “% daily value”. This shows you what percent of your total DAILY calories would be contained in the fats in one serving of the food in the box. In general, you should aim for no more than 35% of your daily calories from total fat and no more than 10% from saturated fat.
Notice that “trans fat” does not have a “% daily value”. This is because no amount of trans fat is safe. If you are concerned about your heart health, try to avoid all trans fats.
Dr. Brent Ridge is the health expert for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. You can call and ask him a question live every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 112 (1.866.675.6675). You can also follow along as he learns to grow his own food and raise goats on his farm in upstate New York by visiting www.beekman1802.com.
Got a health question for Dr. Brent? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.