We’ve been suspicious about this pesky food ingredient known as trans fat for years because of its history of wreaking havoc on the body. As of June 16, 2015 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially agreed, announcing a ban on the use of trans fats in foods. Here’s what that means for you.
What is Trans Fat?
Put most simply, trans fats are the byproduct of partially hydrogenated oils (or PHOs). You’ve likely heard about PHOs—a buzzword in the food and health industry for years—or seen them on nutrition labels and questioned their functionality in the product. PHOs contribute to a food’s taste and texture (some might say improving these qualities) and potentially extend a product’s shelf life. That’s all fun and good, is it not? In fact, no, you want nothing to do with PHOs. The process of hydrogenation makes trans fats the ultimate double-whammy: Trans fats not only increase bad cholesterol, but decrease good cholesterol as well. All in all, this ups one’s risk of heart disease or attack.
Foods to Watch
Reading nutrition labels always is wise and should be a habit when grocery shopping. Look specifically at the amount of saturated and trans fats in the product. Buy products containing the least amount of these. In general, we tend to see trans fats creep in most commonly in baked or frozen foods, but there are many others. Here’s what the FDA says about main trans fat-containing food culprits:
- Crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies and other baked goods
- Snack foods such as microwave popcorn
- Stick margarines
- Coffee creamers
- Refrigerated dough products like biscuits and cinnamon rolls
- Ready-to-use frostings
How This Trans Fat Ban Came to Be
Well isn’t it obvious? There is a clear link between consumption of trans fats and negative health outcomes, so the use of PHOs in foods has been highly scrutinized for years. In 2013, the FDA acknowledged that PHOs could no longer be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) for consumption. It seemed like only a matter of time before this ban be put into place.
What This Ban Means for Consumers
The FDA has our backs in terms of protecting consumers from the increasing health risks associated with trans fats. However, the FDA has given food companies three years (June 2018 deadline) to completely eliminate trans fats from products, so in the meantime we have to protect ourselves as consumers. I cannot say it enough times: READ LABELS. Look for the words “hydrogenation” or “hydrogenated.” These are dead giveaways for what to avoid.
Hungry to learn more? Read these articles. Knowledge is power!