You may have heard the news: Trans-Fats are going away for good! This is very important as we have knows for years that trans-fats are detrimental to our heart health, but this latest news will be a nail in the coffin for these partially hydrogenated oils.
According to the FDA, trans-fats are not Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for human consumption. By 2018, manufacturers will have to find alternative fats to use in their products. Many cities across the country have already taken steps throughout the years to ban trans-fats from restaurant use starting with New York and even here in Philadelphia, but this ban will affect the entire country.
So what are trans-fats and why are they so bad anyway? Trans-fats are not found much in nature. They do occur naturally in small amounts in some meats and animal products, but not to the same degree that we use in processed foods. They are used in manufacturing cookies, cakes and other baked goods (vegetable shortening such as Crisco is a source of these processed trans fats) as the fat is prized for it’s ability to keep products shelf stable and provides the flakiness in crusts. Some stick margarines, potato chips and even microwave popcorn can have some trans-fats hidden in them.
The reason why we want to avoid them is because they increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Trans-fats are found to increase our “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and decrease our “good” HDL cholesterol levels. The hope is that we could potentially reduce heart disease and even prevent heart attacks by reducing the amount of trans-fats in our diet.
We still have a few years until this ban takes place. In the mean time, you need to be aware of these trans-fats and take a closer look at the foods you choose. On the package, a product can claim that it has 0g of trans-fat, as long as it has under 0.49g per serving. This can be tricky because you may think it is a good choice, but you have no way of knowing how much trans-fat is truly in there. What you can do is look at the ingredient list. The other name for trans-fats is “partially hydrogenated oils”. If the label states that the product has 0g of trans-fats, but you want to be sure, look in the ingredient list. If it lists partially hydrogenated oil as an ingredient, then you know there is some degree of trans-fat in that product.
Your best bet is to limit your consumption of processed foods in general. If you want some baked goods, bake it yourself and be mindful of the ingredients that you use. If you want popcorn, make it at home – it’s simple!
If you have any other questions about trans-fats or heart health, consult a Family Food Registered Dietitian. We are here to help!