Some frozen pizzas and other convenience foods still contain unhealthy trans fats.
These artery-clogging fats may linger in the food supply for a while. Learn how to avoid them.
The worst type of fat for the heart—artificial trans fat—may soon be out of our food supply for good. In November, the FDA proposed removing trans fats from the list of additives “generally recognized as safe.” If the rule is finalized, food companies will no longer be allowed to add trans fats to their products.
Trans fats are found mainly in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are inexpensive solid or semi-solid fats used to give foods texture, stability, and a long shelf life. Many companies have already stopped using trans fats, but they still lurk in some processed foods (see “Keeping tabs on trans fats”).
Cardiologist Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, says the FDA’s action is long overdue. “Trans fats are substantially worse than saturated fats. They’re the only dietary fat that raises bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides but lowers good HDL cholesterol,” he said. What’s more, trans fats make blood platelets stickier, increase harmful inflammation, and may promote fat buildup in your belly.
Keeping tabs on trans fats
These foods may still contain unhealthy trans fats:
All of those factors can hasten the development of heart disease and stroke, says Dr. Mozaffarian. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eliminating trans fats from the food supply could prevent up to 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 heart-related deaths each year.
Once the FDA finalizes the rule, the food industry still needs time to comply. So in the meantime, choose products labeled as having 0 grams of trans fat. But even these products can have up to half a gram of trans fat per serving, which can add up depending on what foods you choose. So check the ingredients list and steer clear of products that contain partially hydrogenated oils.
Some cities and countries have passed regulations banning trans fats in restaurants, but most have not. “Small mom-and-pop stores, local restaurants, diners, and bakeries may still use trans fats,” cautions Dr. Mozaffarian.