updated 11/12/2013 AT 5:15 PM ET
•originally published 11/13/2013 AT 12:00 PM ET
Finally! The U.S. government announced on Thursday that it will be banning the use of trans fats in commercial food production.
While only 11 years later than countries like Denmark and Iceland, the move is projected to save at least 20,000 American lives each year. The FDA determined that these partially hydrogenated oils – long referred to as “killer fats” – are no longer recognized as “safe for use in food.”
Why are trans fats so controversial? These fake fats clog your arteries and directly contribute to arteriosclerosis (blockage and hardening of your arteries). These man-made fats are created when the liquid oils are turned into solid fats using a process called hydrogenation.
The problem is that these fats are notoriously used by the food industry to extend the shelf life of food as well as improve its taste and texture (at a significantly cheaper cost than better quality fats).
While some companies, like McDonalds, have actually gone trans-fat-free for seven years, others, like Popeye’s, serve meals that are shockingly high in trans fats – a Popeye’s hash brown has nearly 10 grams of artery-clogging trans fats.
Other food categories notoriously high in trans fats include microwave popcorn (Pop Secret Buttered Popcorn has 5 grams/serving), frozen desserts (Sara Lee Classic New York Style Cheesecake has 4 grams/serving), baking mixes (Betty Crocker Pie Crust has 2.5 grams/serving), margarine (Wal Mart Great Value Stick has 3 grams/serving).
While the food industry scrambles to adhere to the new FDA guidelines, perhaps we should focus on eating healthy fats.
Studies show that eating healthy fat can actually protect your heart from unhealthy fats, reducing the incidence of heart disease, various forms of cancers, and can actually help treat depression.
This delicious green fruit is loaded with monounsaturated fat and has been shown to increase “good” cholesterol in the body. Throw them in a soup, salad, sandwich or smoothie, and give your body a hit of healthy fat.
Seeds and nuts
Loaded with vitamin E, nuts and seeds are a convenient way to add healthy fats without any preparation. Moreover, seeds and nuts are also packed with protein and fiber.
Oily fish like salmon, herring and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and help reduce the risk for heart disease and high cholesterol. Whether you grill, steam, poach, bake, or even eat your fish raw, you’re getting tons of heart-healthy fat (not to mention, lots of high-quality protein).
Olives (and olive oil)
Up to 80 percent of olive oil is monounsaturated, primarily the omega-9 fatty acid known as oleic acid. Olives actually helps cut your “bad” cholesterol level, helps prevent atherosclerosis, and can bump up your level of HDL, the “good” cholesterol.
Do you have a trick for incorporating heart-healthy fats into your diet? Tweet me @harleypasternak