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Healthy Food Choices that Backfire

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  October 24, 2012 09:33 AM

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Photo Source: CDC
Nothing could be worse then when you think that you are making a healthy food choice only to uncover that it really isn’t healthy.  In other words, your healthy food choice backfires.   The latest “good news” from a study conducted by the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) about the decreased levels of trans fats in food products can feed into this potential backfiring.

Trans fat has been shown to not only increase the bad “LDL” cholesterol in the blood, but it also can decrease the good “HDL” cholesterol, which is a very heart-unhealthy combination.  Since 2006, the federal government has required that trans fat be listed on the Nutrition Facts panel on the food label to help consumers make an informed choice when shopping.   Not too surprisingly, many food manufacturers reformulated their products to remove the trans fat because of this food labeling policy.  

In fact, according to the ERS, over 700 new bakery products in the supermarket -- the top food category containing trans fat -- had 73 percent less trans fat per serving, on average, in 2010 than they did in 2005.   The average trans fat per serving in desserts, another category historically high in trans fat, was reduced by 50 percent per serving, on average. 

Here’s where the backfiring comes into play.  Bakery products and desserts that claim to have "0 grams of trans fats" often times give consumers the false sense that these sweets and treats have become a healthier food choice.   Unfortunately, when you remove the trans fat from a donut sold in bakery, you end up with, well, a donut.   The donut didn’t miraculously get converted into an apple or another naturally healthy produce item once the trans fat has been removed.  It will still contain about 300 calories, 16 grams of fat, and 12 grams of sugar or the equivalent of 3 teaspoons of sugar.

Reformulated donuts are not the only "healthier" food that can backfire.   Please click here to view this video for foods such as Greek yogurt and granola, which can also backfire.


Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake
Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.
This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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