Almost every item you pick up at the grocery store these days has “0 grams trans fat” slapped on the label—but according to a new study from the CDC, a good percentage of those items still contain some of the nasty artificial fat that may increase your risk of heart disease.
So, here’s why so many labels are lying to us. Trans fat makes its way into packaged and canned foods through the partially hydrogenated oils that help support shelf life. If there’s less than 0.5 grams of trans fat total in each serving of a given food, companies are allowed to round down to 0 grams. And unfortunately, this is the case for many items you’ll find on grocery-store shelves. Of the 4,340 top-selling packaged foods in the United States that the study looked at, 9 percent listed partially hydrogenated oils on the label, meaning they have some trans fats… yet 84 percent of those reported 0 grams. Which isn’t quite accurate.
While you might assume the amounts of trans fat are still negligible, they can add up if you’re unaware of how many products you’re eating that contain partially hydrogenated oil. On top of that, the Institute of Medicine has said no amount of this artificial fat is safe and the FDA is weighing whether or not to revoke trans fat’s “generally recognized as safe” distinction.
“It’s hard for consumers to know how much trans fat they’re consuming,” says study author Christine Johnson Curtis, assistant commissioner for the Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Tobacco Control at New York City’s Department of Health. You’ll generally find the highest concentrations of trans fat in baked goods, snacks, frozen foods, and anything that contains seasoning—but the research also notes every single food category has items without partially hydrogenated oil. “That means there are always options out there that are trans-fat free,” Curtis says.
So, the thing to know here? Check the ingredients list. Partially hydrogenated oil = trans fat. And also, eat more fresh foods! If you make something yourself, or nosh straight from nature, you eliminate the chance of consuming any of this unhealthy fat. —Jenna Birch for Self.com