As of January 1, 2010, California restaurant owners are legally banned from using trans fats in their products. Bakeries are also required to comply with the legislation, but have until 2011 to stop using trans fats in their products.
Trans fats are made from vegetable oil. Hydrogen is added to this ingredient, and the resulting compound is used in shortening, as well a number of prepared foods. The new California law specifically bans artificial trans fats from being used. Butter, which contains natural trans fats, is not included on the list. If you take a look at the ingredients in cookies and crackers, you will probably see the word “hydrogenated” on the list.
Eating a diet high in trans fats (and there are some people who claim that we shouldn’t be consuming any) contributes to higher levels of bad cholesterol. Trans fats are also blamed for obesity and coronary artery disease. They can be hard to give up because foods made with trans fats taste good and once we get used to consuming them, more healthy choices don’t necessarily have the same kind of appeal.
When making changes in your eating habits, start off slowly. Instead of deciding you are going to go on a restrictive “diet,” think about it in terms of making permanent lifestyle changes. The fact that restaurants and bakeries in California will no longer be adding trans fats to their offering is a great step, but you also need to make good choices about the foods you eat at home.
Eating foods that are fresh or made with as few ingredients as possible is a great strategy. Get in the habit of reading labels before you put something in your shopping cart and be on the lookout for trans fats in the food you eat.