Nutrition Day highlights trans fats

On June 1, Caribbean Nutrition Day will be celebrated across the Caribbean including here in Cayman. Designated three years ago by the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute, Caribbean Nutrition Day is a day dedicated to highlighting the importance of nutrition-related health issues.

Given the increasing rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension in the Caribbean, the importance of promoting healthy eating and physical activity cannot be emphasised enough.

Each year Caribbean Nutrition Day brings attention to a specific aspect of healthy, active living and this year the focus is on increased awareness of trans fats.

Trans fats are a type of fat that has been shown to raise blood cholesterol levels. Since high blood cholesterol levels are a risk factor for heart disease, it is important to limit the amount consumed.

Trans fats are found primarily in processed foods and are made through a process called partial hydrogenation.

Foods commonly containing trans fats include cookies, pastries, pies, crackers, and other snack foods, as well as deep fried foods such as onion rings and French fries.

The best way to know if a food contains trans fats is to look at the Ingredient List on the food package. Clues indicating the presence of trans fats include the ingredients hydrogenated oil, hydrogenated shortening and partially hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated shortening. The term non-hydrogenated oil is an indication that the oil does not contain trans fats. The Nutrition Facts panel can also be used as a tool for figuring out if a food contains trans fats as most countries now require the amount of trans fats to be listed.

While consumption of foods high in trans fats and saturated fats contribute to increased blood cholesterol levels, not all fat is bad. In fact, fat is an essential part of the diet and moderate daily consumption is important.

In order to reduce blood cholesterol levels, choose instead foods that primarily contain polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

These types of fats are commonly found in plant-based foods such as vegetable oils, almonds, and fish and do not raise blood cholesterol levels.

Tips to reduce trans fats

Here are some simple tips to reduce the amount of trans and saturated fats in your diet:

? Avoid fried foods; instead grill, bake, or broil meats and fish

? Choose skimmed or partly skimmed milk and milk products (0 per cent 1 per cent or 2 per cent) instead of whole milk

? Cook with olive oil or canola oil instead of butter or shortening

? Trim the fat and remove the skin from meat

? Enjoy fruits and vegetables at snack times instead of processed, fried foods

? Read labels carefully and avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils

? Choose non-hydrogenated margarine

? Limit processed foods made with lard, palm and coconut oils

Limiting trans fats is important to reduce your risk for heart disease. Remember, though, that it is just one part of a much bigger picture. Maintaining an overall healthy diet, daily fruit and vegetable consumption, high fibre intake, low sodium consumption and portion control, combined with regular exercise, further complete the picture and contribute to a reduced risk of heart disease.

Nutrition Day activities

To celebrate Caribbean Nutrition Day, Hurley’s Marketplace will be offering a 10 per cent discount on fresh produce and 100 per cent fruit juices.

Also look for ‘Know you Fats’ leaflet available at the Cayman Islands Hospital, district health centres, Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital, and participating supermarkets