This Popular Ingredient Has Now Been…Banned?

x-with-knife-and-forkDo you absolutely love doughnuts, ready-to-bake biscuits and cinnamon rolls, crackers, microwaveable popcorn, frozen pizza, coffee creamers and canned frosting? Well get ready to see a change in these products and more.

Why? Because U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced it will significantly limit and, more or less, ban manufacturers from using one of the main ingredients that give these foods their texture and taste.

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What Exactly Are Trans Fats?

Trans fats are a byproduct of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) that form when hydrogen gas is bubbled through oil. PHOs were developed in the 1950s for use by cooking manufacturers who found that these oils also increased the shelf life of processed foods.

Since then, researchers have linked both PHOs and trans fats to serious health problems, such as high cholesterol, plaque buildup in the arteries and coronary heart disease. Because of these studies, FDA researchers issued what’s called a Federal Register notice. This alert determined that these additives are no longer “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS. (If substances fall under this designation, they’re allowed to skirt premarket review and approval by the FDA.)

The agency gave the public, along with scientists and other health and nutrition experts, 60 days to comment on its decision. If after that time, the agency still considers PHOs unsafe, the FDA will require manufacturers to get its specific approval before putting these oils in foods. Essentially, this procedure would effectively remove foods containing trans fats from U.S. supermarkets and grocery stores.

Why They’re A No-No

Trans fats raise your LDL—or “bad”—cholesterol more than other fats. And in one study, people who ate lots of trans fats gained extra jelly belly—the worst place to pick up weight because it contributes to heart disease.

Where Are They?

Certain shortenings and oils usually used to cook prepared foods, baked goods, snacks, fast foods and fried foods. There are two types: naturally occurring trans fats—which appear in tiny amounts in foods like butter—that aren’t that bad for you, and others, made by man, which are. The harmful trans fats (a.k.a. hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils) usually show up as shortenings and cooking oils that scientists have reformulated to keep them from spoiling as quickly in foods and your pantry.

What Do You Do?

Now that researchers have discovered their relationship to heart disease, cities and school systems are banning trans fats from restaurants and cafeterias. Learn to recognize them and slowly cut them out of your diet and the diet of your loved ones.

Do You Use Coupons? Guess What?

A couple handing a credit card to a grocery store cashierGrocery store coupons influence shoppers’ food purchases. Unfortunately, according to a recent CDC study, many of those coupons aren’t very good for you.

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Out of most available online store coupons, 25% are for processed snack foods, candies, and desserts (the largest category). Approximately 12% of coupons were for beverages, more than half of which were for sodas, juices, and sports/energy drinks. Few coupons were available for fruits (<1%) or vegetables (3%). Grocery retailers may be uniquely positioned to positively influence Americans’ dietary patterns, and engaging retailers in efforts to provide store coupons for healthy food items may help address public health priorities.

Why is this such a problem? The CDC has highlighted four important facts about consumers:

  • The failure of most Americans to meet dietary recommendations contributes to the obesity epidemic.
  • Interventions targeting consumers’ grocery store purchases can aid in efforts to improve the dietary choices.
  • Food prices are an important driver of consumption patterns.
  • Almost one-third of shoppers now use online coupons.

How Available Were “Healthy” Coupons?

“Healthful foods” generally include fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, unprocessed meats, and nuts and seeds; unhealthful foods are high in fat, sodium, and added sugars. According to the study, few coupons were available for more healthful alternatives, such as fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed meats. This data is consistent with previous research showing that grocery stores infrequently promote foods that support a healthy weight.

Why?

There may be a few different reasons for this, including the fact that, because of volatility in wholesale prices of fruits and vegetables, retailers have difficulty forecasting their prices.