Goodbye, trans fats. Well, mostly.
Today, the Food and Drug Administration officially declared that partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of trans fats in processed foods, are no longer “generally recognized as safe” to eat.
The nasty thing about trans fats is that not only do they raise your levels of bad cholesterol, but they also lower your levels of good cholesterol. In the statement announcing its policy change, the FDA said it expects to cut rates of coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks annually. Other studies have linked it to everything from Alzheimer’s to liver dysfunction, emotional problems and cancer.
Many companies have seen the writing on the wall — this change has been three years in the making — and have already begun to change their recipes. But food manufacturers will have three years to figure out how to make your French fries and cupcakes healthier.
But this ban doesn’t mean trans fats will never be on your plate again.
“It’s important to note that trans fat will not be completely gone from foods because it occurs naturally in small amounts in meat and dairy products, and is present at very low levels in other edible oils,” the FDA notes.
The problem isn’t the low levels of naturally occurring trans fats — it’s the extent of their use in practically everything we eat. Many restaurants fry their food in partially hydrogenated oil to keep down costs because it stays good longer than natural oils; packaged baked goods like crackers and cookies contain trans fats to keep their texture; ready-made frosting doesn’t melt at room temperature because of trans fats. Margarine (just switch back to butter already) and coffee creamers are two other products to avoid.
In conclusion: Keep reading those nutrition labels, and avoid anything that contains the word “hydrogenated.”