We need to do much more than simply eliminate trans fats!

New York City recently passed a law that will come into effect in July 2007, with the purpose of progressively phasing out the use of trans fats in all its restaurants. A similar strategy is in the works here at home. Our government is aiming to launch its plan by 2010. But will this be enough to improve the health of Canadians?

New York City recently passed a law that will come into effect in July 2007, with the purpose of progressively phasing out the use of trans fats in all its restaurants. A similar strategy is in the works here at home. Our government is aiming to launch its plan by 2010. But will this be enough to improve the health of Canadians?

Trans fats are a type of fat found in partially hydrogenated oils used in the making of margarine, patisseries, commercial cakes and cookies, as well as other prepared foods found in grocery stores and most fast food restaurants. They are liquid unsaturated fats transformed into a more solid substance to make them easier to cook with. The use of trans fats also enables manufacturers to lengthen the shelf life of the foods found in supermarkets.

This type of fat is very detrimental to your health. In no way do our bodies require trans fats to function properly. Consuming them provokes an increase in the level of LDL-cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) in the blood, while decreasing levels of HDL-cholesterol (“good” cholesterol). We have known for a very long time that this contributes to the development of cardiovascular diseases.

Many food manufacturers have already started replacing trans fats by other types of fats. But do you really know what they are replacing them with? You should read the nutrition labels and list of ingredients!

Some foods now contain a lot more saturated fats and calories. Just like trans fats, saturated fats increase the level of bad cholesterol in the blood. When consumed in large quantities, they harm your arteries and increase your risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease. To preserve the taste in their foods, some companies have opted to add more sugar to their preparations. Sugar brings additional calories that, if not spent regularly, result in weight gain. As we know, there is an obesity epidemic around the world today. Never in history has a greater percentage of the population been either overweight or obese. This highly contributes to an increase in diabetes and cardiovascular disease everywhere in the world.

So what should we eat? Look for whole and unprocessed foods that contain monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. These types of fats have more beneficial effects on our cholesterol profile. However, like everything else, they must be consumed in moderation.

The most important thing you can do for yourself is to carefully look at what you eat. You should eat fresh and colourful fruits and vegetables as often as you can, choose whole grain breads, grains and legumes, fish and lean meats, low fat cheeses, yogurts and milk. Variety is the best policy! Avoid eating prepared meals as much as possible, because they are usually rich in calories, salt and fat. Take pleasure in shopping for food and cooking for yourself and for your family. It is after all, the only way to know what’s actually on your plate!

Some grocery stores now offer tours guided by nutritionists who teach you how to read nutrition labels. More and more television shows deal with various subjects related to health and nutrition. Some pharmacies and medical clinics also offer appointments with a nutritionist to help you make more judicious choices. People suffering from certain chronic diseases such as diabetes can take classes on how to take charge of their health. As it becomes vital to ensure proper nutrition especially for people with heart diseases and diabetes, most classes do cover nutrition.

In short, there are many alternatives at your disposal to learn more about proper nutrition. Take advantage of any chance you may have to learn how to eat well. The foods we choose not only feed our bodies, but also our minds!

Here’s to your health!

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