For years, health and nutrition advocates have agreed on one thing: trans fats should have no part in a healthy diet. And finally, the United States government is coming around to that notion. Yesterday the FDA declared that the additive potentially poses a public health risk.
This is a big deal. A really big deal. Eventually, it’s likely that trans fats will virtually disappear from the U.S. food supply. Any manufacturer that wants to use trans fats in its products will have to get special approval from the FDA, and that kind of approval is very difficult to come by.
What are trans fats?
Trans fats raise bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol and have been linked to heart disease. They have been used in food manufacturing for well over a century, but really grew in popularity during World War II, when shoppers turned to trans fat-laden margarine because butter was being rationed. In recent years, many manufacturers and restaurants have stopped using trans fats. You won’t find any in McDonald’s french fries, Oreos, or Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.
But the stuff isn’t outlawed yet, so it’s up to consumers to avoid it. Luckily, in the United States, food manufacturers are required to include information about trans fats on their nutrition labels. However, some foods are labeled “trans fat-free” when it’s not quite true. The FDA allows any food that contains less than .5 grams of trans fat in a serving to have a “trans fat-free” label, so your best bet is to avoid processed foods as much as possible.
How to tell if a product has trans fat:
If you see “partially hydrogenated” oil listed under the ingredients, the product likely contains trans fat. For those who can’t resist a little junk food, just be mindful of the labels, and scrutinize microwave popcorn, cake mixes, frostings, margarine, frozen meals and fried foods.
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