Healthy eating for older adults is still, not surprisingly, a huge matter of concern, especially considering the fact that obesity and heart disease continues to plague Americans of all ages. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now taking major steps to ensure that not only diets for older adults improve, but that everyone has easy access to healthier food options, in an attempt to alleviate the rising number of heart disease cases.
The FDA has announced that it will be phasing out and eventually banning the use of added trans fats in processed foods. This means that the addition of partially hydrogenated oils will be reduced significantly in the American food supply. Manufacturers have been given three years to eliminate trans fats from their foods—the ingredient is commonly added to things like microwavable popcorn, margarine, frozen foods, deep fried foods, coffee creamers, granola bars, snack puddings, and potato chips, to name a few potential offenders.
This is a monumental step forward in the effort to promote healthy eating for older adults, young adults, and children alike. In fact, the U.S. Center for Science in the Public Interest’s director, Michael Jacobson, has described the FDA’s decision as the “single most important thing the FDA has ever done for the healthfulness of the food supply.”
What Are Trans Fats?
It’s easier to understand why trans fat is so bad for your anti-aging diet once you know what exactly they are. There are two types of trans fat—it can appear naturally in some foods, such as meat and dairy products, but what’s of concern in diets for older adults is the second type, which is artificial trans fat. The artificial fat is produced through an industrial process whereby hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oil to solidify it. The benefits of artificial trans fat for food manufacturers are that it’s cheap and easy to produce, gives foods a satiating texture and taste, and can extend the shelf life of a product.
You’ll likely see artificial trans fat listed as “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredients list. Better yet, check the nutrition facts on the product—manufacturers are required to list how many grams of trans fat the packaged food item contains. This will be a good indicator of how bad it is. Keep an eye out for it, because it will wreak havoc on your anti-aging diet.
Why the FDA Ban?
By no means is the U.S. the first region to regulate the use of trans fats as a means to improve diets for older adults, children, and every age group in between—Denmark, Switzerland, and Germany are already reducing or restricting their use in the food service.
The ban in the U.S. has been put into place based on the fact that, according to the Institute of Medicine, there is no such thing as a safe consumption level for trans fats. These additives endanger your anti-aging diet because they can have a significant impact on your cholesterol levels—trans fat are known to raise your LDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” cholesterol) while lowering your HDL, or the “good,” cholesterol levels. Trans fats are also bad for your anti-aging diet because they’ve been linked to a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and type-2 diabetes.
Although fat consumption has declined significantly since 2003, the FDA warns that our current intake is still a “public health concern,” which is why it has made the decision to add trans fat to its list of foods “without regulatory approval.”
So what does this mean for your anti-aging diet? As previously mentioned, any artificial trans fat will have to be removed or replaced with healthier oils (like canola or soy oil) within the next three years. That means that many of the foods in your grocery store will be that much healthier, and every little bit counts when it comes to healthy eating for older adults.
Based on a 2012 study in the journal JAMA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that if we reduce the consumption of trans fats and avoid artificial trans fat altogether, we can prevent up to 20,000 heart attacks and as many as 7,000 deaths from coronary heart disease a year in the U.S.
How to Make the Most of Your Anti-Aging Diet
Even with this new trans fat change from the FDA, healthy eating for older adults really boils down to making smarter food choices and lifestyle changes. Here a few tips to ensure that your anti-aging diet is the healthiest it can be:
• Whenever possible, replace processed and pre-packaged foods with fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole foods.
• Pick nuts and seeds for healthier snacking options in your anti-aging diet.
• Always check the nutrition label on foods—aim for zero grams of trans fat and look for less than 10% of your daily value of combined saturated and trans fat (under the %DV column on the right side of the nutrition table).
• Good diets for older adults are free of anything that’s deep fried.
• If you bake, use a recipe that starts from scratch instead of relying on pre-packaged mixes that can contain added trans fat.
• When shopping for meat, always go lean (e.g. skinless chicken, turkey breast, extra lean ground beef, etc.). When shopping for dairy products, go for low- or non-fat options.
“Tackling Trans Fat,” EatRight Ontario web site; https://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Fat/Tackling-Trans-Fat.aspx, last accessed June 17, 2015.
“Trans Fat,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site, January 8, 2014; http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/fat/transfat.html.
“Trans Fats,” American Heart Association web site; http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Trans-Fats_UCM_301120_Article.jsp, last accessed June 17, 2015.
“Trans fats to be phased out in U.S.,” CBC News web site, June 16, 2015; http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/trans-fats-to-be-phased-out-in-u-s-1.3115347.