On November 7, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a move to put the kibosh on trans fats, effectively removing them from the American diet. The agency says that partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of trans fats in food, are not “generally recognized as safe,” which is government speak for “you really shouldn’t eat this.”Its plan is to collect data and commentary to determine a reasonable timeline for reformulating products that contain trans fats and—if there is enough unimpeachable data—then institute new regulations categorizing partially hydrogenated oils as food additives that can’t be used without specific authorization.Much like gluten intolerance and free radicals, trans fats has reached buzz-phrase status, but most people would be hard pressed to explain what it really means. Trans fats (short for trans fatty acid) are manufactured by putting vegetable oil through a chemical process called hydrogenation, which allows the oil to be solid at room temperature—picture a tub of margarine. This keeps the oil from spoiling as quickly, a boon for the makers of packaged snacks who want to extend the shelf lives of their products for as long as possible. Trans fats are also often used for deep-frying, and in baking, when they’re typically referred to as shortening.“Trans fat is poison for your body and beauty,” says Michael F. Roizen, M.D., chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic and co-founder of YouBeauty. “We think of trans fat as something that ages you—you feel, and, yes, look older if you eat it.” Trans fat alters metabolic processes and increases the hardening of you arteries, accelerating the aging of your cardiovascular system. It increases the risk of heart attack or stroke by raising your levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and lowering “good” HDL cholesterol.MORE: Top 5 Food FelonsThe good news is that Americans have cut down on their intake of trans fats significantly over the past several years, from an average of 4.6 grams per day in 2003, to about 1 gram per day in 2012. But the Institute of Medicine says that no amount of trans fat is safe, and the FDA estimates that tighter regulation could prevent an additional 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year.”In the meantime, just avoid all partically hydrogenated fats—baked fries can taste just as great with none of the stuff that ages you or makes you look older,” says Dr. Roizen.Trans Fat Cheat SheetUntil you can count on your food being trans-fat-free by power of the FDA, here are three tips for regulating your consumption all by yourself:

Valerie Fischel
trans fat infographic

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