FDA vs. trans fats: What you need to know
Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Association released a statement that the agency was investigating trans fats in food and considering taking steps to ban it from grocery store shelves around the country. This isn’t new for the state—the University of Michigan banned trans fat from its campus almost four years ago—but it will mark a big change in the way some of our favorite foods are made. Not sure what this means for you (or why you should care)? Here’s what you need to know and some tips on how to beat the FDA to the punch and clean out your own snack cupboard:
Why they’re so bad: Trans fats are created when regular oil has hydrogen added to it. The addition of the hydrogen makes the oil keep longer on shelves, but it does a number on your health. Not only does eating trans fat raise your bad cholesterol, it also lowers your good cholesterol, making it twice as powerful at increasing your risk of heart disease.
Biggest culprits: Because hydrogenated oils are used to extend the shelf life of foods, it’s usually found in processed fare with far-off expiration dates. You’ll spot it in cookies, crackers, cakes, doughnuts, French fries and other not-so-healthy items in the snack and dessert aisles at the supermarket.
What to look for: It’s not enough to look and see if a product’s packaging claims it’s trans-fat free or to see a huge zero next to trans fats on the nutrition label. A company is allowed to say that an item has no trans fats if it has less than .5 grams per serving. Unfortunately, that’s still an unhealthy amount (we told you they were bad!). So dig a little deeper and scan the ingredient list for anything that says “partially hydrogenated” or just “hydrogenated.” (Side note: if the label says “fully hydrogenated,” you’re actually in the clear—those types of oils don’t have trans fat in them.)
Photo credit: Philosophographlux