Trans fats are the worst fats you can eat, but luckily they are being phased out of many commercial food products and even from restaurant meals in some areas. In June 2015, the FDA finalized its determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of artificial trans fats in processed foods, are not "generally recognized as safe," or GRAS, for use in human food. While about 85 percent of artificial trans fats have been eliminated from the food supply, manufacturers have three years to reformulate products or to petition the FDA to permit specific uses of PHOs.
With all the news about trans fats, we still get questions. Here are the answers to the five queries we most commonly receive about these really bad fats:
Are Trans Fats?
Trans fats are created when manufacturers turn liquid oils into solid fats through a process called hydrogenation — originally developed to replace harmful saturated fats and increase the shelf life of baked goods. Unfortunately, hydrogenation alters many of the oils’ unsaturated fatty acids, making them more saturated. Since 2006, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required food manufacturers to display the amount of trans fats on all of their product labels.
Kinds of Foods Contain Trans Fats?
Some foods, such as chips and crackers, certain brands of popcorn, and commercially baked products such as cookies, pies, and cakes still contain trans fats. Try to avoid these foods and focus instead on those that contain healthy fats, such as extra-virgin olive and canola oils.
Can I Find the Trans-Fat Number on a Nutrition Facts panel?
The trans-fat number is listed on the Nutrition Facts panel after Total Fat and Saturated Fat, but only if the product contains 0.5 grams or more per serving. In other words, the product can claim it has 0 grams of trans fats if it contains less than 0.5 grams per serving. Be sure to check for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list if you’re trying to steer clear of trans fats altogether.
Do Trans Fats Affect My Health?
Like saturated fats, trans fats can raise your LDL ("bad") cholesterol. However, worse than saturated fats, these fats can also lower your HDL ("good") cholesterol. No wonder trans fats are linked to heart disease, metabolic problems, obesity, infertility, and many other health conditions.
Do I Avoid These Health Risks?
Your best bet: Choose your foods carefully. Skip the chips and baked goods and include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean protein, and reduced-fat dairy in your daily diet. And be sure to read the ingredients list on all commercial food products!