The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just announced that food manufacturers must eliminate all trans fats from the food supply by 2018. Trans fats were taken off of the “Generally Recognized As Safe” list in 2013, but now the FDA considers them a public health threat. While this is great news, many people are scratching their heads wondering what this means for them and for the food supply.
What are trans fats?
Trans fats are predominantly man-made fats. On a molecular level, hydrogen is added to a fat to make it more solid—that’s why these types of fats are called “partially hydrogenated oils.” Solid fats (saturated fats and trans fats) can be heated to higher temperatures, which is why many fried foods are cooked in partially hydrogenated oils. Trans fats increase mouth feel – creating that “melt in your mouth” sensation and they also have a longer shelf life than other types of fats so are ideal for processed goods.
Why are trans fats bad for you?
While trans fats may have many functional benefits, they are detrimental to everyone’s health. An increased intake of trans fats increases your risk of infertility (intake of 4 grams or more per day doubles your risk), decreases your HDL (good) cholesterol, increases your LDL (bad) cholesterol, and may decrease memory function. The American Heart Association recommends eating as few as possible and no “safe” level of consumption has been established.
What types of foods have trans fats?
Trans fats will be found in stick margarines, pastries, refrigerated dough, microwave popcorn, peanut butter, sweet snacks, cake and muffin mixes, frosting, cookies, and more.
How do I know if a food has trans fats?
Start looking at your food label! The first place to look is at “Trans Fat” which is a subcategory of “Total Fat” near the top of the food label. However, you can’t stop there. Current legislation allows for manufacturers to put “0 g” if there is less than 0.5 grams per serving. Your next step is to head down to the ingredients list and look for “partially hydrogenated oils.”
What does this decision mean for food?
In most instances, tropical oils will replace hydrogenated oils. You will likely not taste a difference, but will start seeing more coconut and palm kernel oil listed as ingredients. These oils are solid at room temperature and mostly saturated fat, so still need to be consumed in moderate quantities. Additionally, because these are tropical oils, increased manufacturing may impact our world’s rain forests.