Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given the food industry three years to eliminate artificial trans fats from the food supply, a step that is expected to save thousands of lives a year.
The amount of trans fat has been significantly reducing in foods since November 2013 when the FDA made a initial decision that partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) are no longer Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) in human food.
How do trans fats affect my health?
Trans fats are considered by many doctors to be the worst type of fat you can eat. Trans fat raises your ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol levels and lowers your ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol levels. A person whose diet consists of high levels of trans fat will have an increased risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.
What foods have trans fats in them?
Some meat and dairy products contain small amounts of natural trans fat but the majority of trans fat we find in our foods are formed through a chemical process and are used to help foods keep a longer shelf life.
Keep an eye out for these common foods that trans fat is often found in:
- Baked goods. Most cakes, cookies, pie crusts and crackers contain shortening, which is usually made from partially hydrogenate vegetable oil. Ready-made frosting is another source of trans fat
- Snacks. Potato, corn and tortilla chips often contain trans fat. And while popcorn can be a healthy snack, many types of packaged or microwave popcorn use trans fat to help cook or flavor the popcorn.
- Fried food. Foods that require deep-frying like french fries, doughnuts and fried chicken can contain trans fat from the oil used in the cooking process.
- Creamer and Margarine. Nondairy coffee creamer and stick margarines also may contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
In the United States if a food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat in a serving, the food label can read 0 grams trans fat.
When you check the food label for trans fat, also check the food's ingredient list for partially hydrogenated vegetable oil which indicates that the food contains some trans fat, even if the amount is below 0.5 grams.