Trans fats are altered fats. A scientist adds molecules to them in a lab to make the oil more solid at room temperature much like the natural way butter or animal fat is. It is spreadable and transparent. This process is call Hydrogenating. Transfats are typically high in calories, as are all fats, but it also has been shown to lower your good cholesterol and raise your bad cholesterol. In fact, hydrogenated oil's trans fats raise your bad cholesterol higher than eating a high cholesterol food, like eggs.
FDA regulation states that a manufacturer does not have to list trans fats on a nutrition facts label if it is less than one gram per serving. In fact they are even allowed to label on their box that the product is trans fat free! Here's the problem with this regulation, and it only effects your health. It is recommended that we eat NO transfats. Not even one gram. Suppose a box of crackers has .75 grams of transfats per one serving, that the manufacturer has decided is 10 crackers. Suppose now that those are 1 inch by 1 inch cheese crackers. I don't know about you, but I would never only eat 10 of those little crackers. I would probably eat 2-3 times that ammount, and for a serving size this may be reasonable. It is not, however, reasonable when the manufacturer is trying to hide the trans fat content in their food. So if I did eat 30 crackers I would have consumed 2.25 grams of transfats and that was only with my first snack of the day! I will still eat another 2 servings after lunch and tomorrow I will finish the box off. (Don't worry about my cholesterol, I do not buy these crackers. I am sacrificing my pretend self for the sake of this article.) You can see how this would really add up.
How do we know when a product really has transfats in it then?
Well, I am happy to tell you that there is a way to know and it is easy and fast. All you have to do is look for the word HYDROGENATED in the ingredients. If it is there, then it contains trans fats and you should shun this product. A little trans fat in your crackers, a little in your bread, some in your soup, a bit in your donut, it all adds up over the course of a day and it will cause you health problems. There are a lot of natural products available that contain healthy oils and fats. Please read your labels and be aware that the price of food is the same with any goods... You get what you pay for! For more information on fats, which are bad and which are good see my article You Mean I Can Eat Fat?. Our bodies need a proper amount of fat to work well so a non fat diet is NOT recommended.