Because Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey tastes like banana, we can count it as a fruit, right? Well, no, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat it. Fatty treats aren’t bad, per se, if you eat them in moderation. But there is one food ingredient that you have to watch out for, that scientists say you should never eat: partially hydrogenated oils.

That’s because they contain trans fats, or trans-unsaturated fatty acids, which the U.S. Food and drug administration (FDA) have deemed “not generally recognized as safe for any use in human food.”

That is a strong statement considering you probably have foods in your pantry right now with those very ingredients. According to the FDA, trans fats are most likely to be in foods like

  • crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies and other store-bought baked goods
  • snack foods (such as some microwave popcorn)
  • stick margarines
  • coffee creamers
  • refrigerated dough products (such as biscuits and cinnamon rolls)
  • ready-to-use frostings

You can find the amount of trans fat in any product on the nutrition label under Total Fat. Even when trans fats say 0 grams, look at the list of ingredients to make sure you don’t see partially hydrogenated oil. Partially hydrogenated oil is the primary source of trans fats in the US diet. While some trans fats safely occur in nature, it is that man-made ingredient you have to watch out for.

According to the FDA, “Removing partially hydrogenated oils from processed foods could prevent thousands of heart attacks and deaths each year.”

So why are they still around? After the FDA made an initial statement in 2015 about the dangers of this ingredient, they gave industry three years to gradually phase out its use. That brings us to this year, 2018, and it is probably going to take a while longer for the trans-fat containing products to phase out of the market. It is worth noting here that one of the main reasons companies use trans fats in the first place is because they help food stay shelf-stable for a very long time. Think Twinkies.

The science against trans fats continues to build. Just this month (May 2018) the World Health Organization announced its clear link to cardiovascular disease based on the last 15 years of scientific evidence. According the American Heart Association,

Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Trans fats have also been negatively associated with brain health. According to this 2015 paper scientist found the consumption of trans fats was significantly associated with worse word recall in younger adults.

At least since the 1950’s and the development of margarine (made using the chemical hydrogenating process that can solidify vegetable oil), we Americans have been eating partially hydrogenated oils. But it is not too late to stop eating them and regain your health. So, while we wait for that last trans fat containing product to slip quietly out of the market, keep on reading those labels. And remember, there are definitely no trans fats in an actual banana.

If you are concerned about your health and want to know more about how you can live your healthiest life, call us and make an appointment today.