November 7, 2013 was a big day for the American heart. The FDA announced its plan to phase out trans fats from our diet by moving it from a category recognizing it as a safe food additive to one making it unsafe and illegal for use.
What are trans fats?
Trans fats are created artificially when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to create a more solid substance often referred to as partially hydrogenated oil. It is not the only fat we encounter. Saturated fats can also be rough on our bodies, but it does have some of the more devastating effects on our health. Trans fats not only raise the level of bad cholesterol in our bodies, they also work against us by lowering the good cholesterol we consume.
There is no way to avoid fats all together, nor would we want to. Consuming mono-saturated fats provides us energy, keeps hair and skin healthy and helps us absorb fat soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and K.
What does this mean?
This biggest difference this ruling will make is that restaurants and manufacturers still hanging on to trans fat use will have to rework their process to comply with the new standards. It sounds like a big undertaking, but a schedule is in the works that will give everyone time to adjust to new standards.
We as a nation aren't the first to crack down on this harmful additive. Although Mayor Bloomberg of New York has been quite vocal regarding his prohibition against trans fats throughout his city's restaurants that began in 2008, it is the example of entire countries like Sweden and Denmark that prove an entire nation is able to change.
How will this help us?
According to the FDA, simply removing trans fats from our diet will prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7000 deaths annually. ANNUALLY! And what do we have to do? Nothing. It's actually very doubtful that we will actually notice a difference in our food considering that trans fats have been phasing out of our foods for quite some time now without protest.
What we do need to understand is that this doesn't solve all of our health problems. Saturated fats will still raise cholesterol levels and sugars in excess will still harm our bodies. We still need to take care of ourselves with a conscious diet and active lifestyle.
Popular Foods Currently Containing Trans Fats
Frozen Pastries: pie crusts, biscuits/rolls, cookies, frozen desserts
Coffee Creamers (non-dairy)
Fast Foods (anything fried or battered): Popeye's, Long John Silver's.
Crisco: Although they are listed as no longer using trans fats, they were once the poster child for trans fat use. Currently they contain the minimum amount allowed (.5 grams) to be able to say they contain 0 grams. Sneaky.
Canned Frosting, Packaged Pudding, Cake Mixes
Bisquick, Pancake and Waffle Mixes
Margarine. It turns out that butter, a saturated fat, is actually better for you. Sorry Fabio.
Check out the Trans Fat and Menu Labeling Legislation for more information.