Kimberly Holland Kimberly Holland
June 18, 2015

The Food and Drug Administration announced this week that food manufacturers have to remove all trans fats from their foods by 2018. That's a big step in the right direction, according to many in the health community, but if you don't eat, sleep, and breathe food and nutrition the way we at Cooking Light do, you may be left wondering what the fuss is all about.

Artificial trans fats are byproducts of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs). In a mechanical process, hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to create a thicker oil product. In turn, that product is used by food manufacturers to help foods remain shelf-stable longer. Some natural trans fats are present in milk products and meat. It's the artificial trans fats, however, that are the fats of concern.

Studies show that artificial trans fats raise bad (LDL) cholesterol and lower good (HDL) cholesterol. Additionally, eating trans fats increases your risk for depression, memory problems, heart disease, and stroke.

In a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers determined that removing trans fats from food could stop 10,000 to 20,000 heart attacks and 3,000 to 7,000 deaths caused by coronary heart disease.

Thanks to a loophole in labeling laws, you may be eating trans fats without knowing it. If one serving of the food has less than 0.5g of trans fats, food manufacturers can round down to zero and declare their food trans fat–free. That means you have to do your own digging to determine if your foods contain trans fats. The Nutrition Facts label is a good place to start because you can't trust product packaging. Look first at the trans fats line, then look at the ingredients. If you see any "partially hydrogenated" oil products, you're holding a food with trans fats.

Your doughnuts, French fries, and pie crust may have to undergo some changes to meet the FDA's ban, but your heart will thank you.

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