The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that food producers will be required to eliminate trans fats from their products within the following 6 months to a year.
As consumers, this is exciting news. Trans fats have been a major dietary concern for decades because research has consistently shown them to increase the risk for heart disease by both raising bad LDL cholesterol and lowering good HDL cholesterol.
Trans fats are made through hydrogenation, a process that takes hydrogen and adds it to vegetable oil changing the configuration from a liquid to a solid at room temperature. In the 1950s, food manufacturers began adding trans fats to food products in order to increase shelf life, enhance texture and preserve flavor. Trans fat is most commonly found in baked goods, pastries, cake mixes, crackers, cookies, pizza dough, frosting and even microwave popcorn. Most restaurant chains have switched to using trans fat-free oils, but there are still small restaurants who use trans fats in their cooking.
In 2006, the FDA required food manufacturers to include trans fats on nutritional labels, but these labels can sometimes be misleading. A product can contain up to 0.5 grams of trans fats and still be labeled trans fat free. This means that if you have more than one serving of this particular food, you could be consuming multiple grams of trans fat in a supposedly trans fat free product. To really be confident that your snack is void of trans fat, check the ingredients label. Anything called hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated or fully hydrogenated is a source of trans fat.
Until the new ban is called into action, be weary of labels, eat processed and fried foods sparingly, use heart-healthy fats such as mono or polyunsaturated rich oils and when in doubt, ask.