7 ways to avoid trans fats in daily life-Philippines Times of News

Thursday, March 28, 2019 12:00 AM    Views : 709by:Dinna Louise C. Dayao

ANN REGOSO-ABACAN, a registered nutritionist-dietitian and the principal of the Sophia School, banned crackers, cookies and cakes from the school canteen, offering students food that is healthy and low in trans fats instead. — FACEBOOK

THE DANES and the New Yorkers have it easy. The former won’t find foods with trans fatty acids on their grocery store shelves. That’s because Denmark banned the artery clogger in 2003. On the other hand, New Yorkers need not worry about trans fats when they eat out. A ban took the harmful fats off their dining plates in 2007.

Trans fatty acids, or trans fats for short, can be naturally occurring (in beef, pork, lamb, butter, and milk) which is not harmful in moderation, or artificial trans fats — made when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil in a process called “hydrogenation” turning liquid oil into solid form. The latter is the problematically trans fats since it has been found to clog arteries and lead to weight gain, among other less than salubrious effects.

While it is known that trans fats are harmful to one’s health, there is no ban on these fats in the Philippines. Still, one need not wait to make the shift to healthier eating. Here are seven steps one can take to avoid or lessen one’s consumption of these dangerous fats.

1. Choose healthier oils. In a nutshell, avoid the trans fats and replace hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils with oils rich in polyunsaturated fats. Soybean, canola (rapeseed), corn, safflower, and sunflower oils are polyunsaturated fats, said the World Health Organization.

The one issue some people may have with these oils is their cost. A cheaper alternative that some have chosen is coconut oil, which is also not a trans fat. It is a saturated fat that is commonly used for deep frying.

It is the only oil used in the canteen of the Sophia School in Meycauayan, Bulacan. Ann Regoso-Abacan, a registered nutritionist-dietitian, is the school principal. She uses coconut oil, and the least amount at that, to prepare dishes containing vegetables and vegemeat on Meatless Mondays. Monday’s offerings may include veggie burgers, veggie balls, and tokwa (tofu) fries.

On the other days of the week, the students will find meat, fish, and vegetable dishes and at least one vegetarian version of a dish — such as menudotocino, or fish sarciado — on the menu. All these dishes are pan-fried or sautéd in coconut oil.

Ms. Abacan said that she does not deep fry any food or use butter or solid fats in any dish. In this way, she succeeds in providing students food that is low in trans fats. She takes the effort to do so because she believes that “healthy kids become productive citizens.”

But then the question is is coconut oil good for you? At first blush, it would seem that coconut oil — a saturated fat — is bad for the heart. Too much saturated fat raises “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease.

What is interesting about coconut oil is that it also gives “good” HDL cholesterol a boost, said Walter C. Willett, M.D., in the Harvard Health Letter. Dr. Willett — a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School — advises using coconut oil sparingly. “Coconut oil’s special HDL-boosting effect may make it ‘less bad’ than the high saturated fat content would indicate, but it’s still probably not the best choice among the many available oils to reduce the risk of heart disease,” he said.

2. Play trans fats detective. One does have to play diet detective to know if a food contains artificial trans fats. Start by looking at the ingredient list on the food label.

Here’s a rule of thumb from the US Food and Drug Administration: “If the ingredient list includes the words ‘shortening,’ ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,’ or ‘hydrogenated vegetable oil,’ the food contains trans fat.”

What if the label clearly states “Trans Fat: 0 g”? That is no guarantee that the food is indeed free of trans fats, if you see any of the words above in the list of ingredients. Under the regulations of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “if the serving contains less than 0.5 gram of trans fat, the content, when declared, shall be expressed as zero.”

And what if one can’t avoid foods containing artificial trans fats? Then choose products that list the “shortening,” “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” or “hydrogenated vegetable oil” near the end of the ingredient list. As required by the US FDA, food manufacturers list all the ingredients of their products on the food label. The ingredients at the top of list are present in the greatest amounts; those ingredients close to the end of the list are present in smaller amounts.

3. Cut out the 3-in-1 coffee. Many Filipinos have made this rich drink a part of their day. It’s easy to see why. What other drink gives you a shot of caffeine and a sweet treat in one sachet — and for less than P10 a pop? Just add hot water.

The bad news is that the nondairy creamer in 3-in-1 coffee is full of trans fats in the form of partially hydrogenated oil. This oil is usually pretty high up in the ingredient list.

Healthier options: Use low-fat or skim milk for your cup of java to make it creamy. Or make your own creamer.

Chef Vicky Rose Pacheco, executive chef and chief operating officer of the Chateau 1771 Group of Restaurants, used to add nondairy creamer to her coffee. After learning that nondairy creamer contains partially hydrogenated oil, she decided to make her own half-and-half by combining real milk and cream. “The real thing is healthier,” she said.

4. Go easy on the baked goods. Filipinos of all ages like crackers. They eat crackers to take the edge off their hunger pangs when stuck in traffic. Those with a bum stomach may nibble on a piece or two to soothe their stomachs. Some dieters will, misguidedly, eat nothing but crackers all day.

Here’s the rub, though: Crackers could contain .49 grams of trans fats per serving and still be labeled as “Trans Fat: 0 g.” Check the ingredient list — you will probably find vegetable shortening near the top of the list. So even you eat only a serving — say, three crackers — you may still get .49 grams of trans fat. But how many people can stop at three crackers?

Also, many Filipinos indulge their sweet tooth with cakes and cookies which could be packed with trans fats that keep them fresh longer.

Healthier options: If you bake, use healthier oils instead of partially hydrogenated oil or shortening. Ms. Pacheco makes pan de sal using olive oil instead of vegetable oil that is more commonly used in some pan de sal recipes. Ms. Abacan, on the other hand, uses coconut oil instead of vegetable oil in making chocolate cake.

Instead of snacking on baked goods or processed chips, eat dry-roasted peanuts try boiled peanuts, saba bananas, corn, or sweet potato, instead. Ot native delicacies such as palitawkutsinta, or guinataan (rice and coconut snacks).

Going to the movies? Stay away from movie theater popcorn. Chances are it’s loaded with trans fats. Instead, cook popcorn at home using a healthier oil then bring it to the movie theater. Or pack cut-up fruits or vegetables to munch on. Ms. Pacheco said her cousin brings sliced singkamas(jicama) or green mango to the movies.

5. Bring a brown bag. Four in every 10 Filipino adults ate lunch away from home in 2013, according to a study done by Dr. Josie P. Desnacido and her colleagues. Dr. Desnacido is a science research specialist at the Department of Science and Technology — Food Nutrition Research Institute.

So how is one to know that the food in that canteen or fastfood restaurant is free from trans fats? The food isn’t labeled. And these eateries are likely to cook with partially hydrogenated oil. It is, after all, the go-to frying oil for restaurants.

Healthier options: Prepare food at home, and choose healthier oils and methods. One can have fish paksiw (simmered in vinegar) or a soupy dish like sinigang (sour soup) or chicken tinola (chicken soup with green papaya and ginger). Boil some pasta, and use olive oil, garlic, and mushrooms as a tasty sauce. Or cook chicken or pork adobo (stewed in vinegar and soy sauce) using oils such as soybean, canola, and sunflower, which are free of trans fats.

6. Avoid deep fried foods. When eating out, have baked, grilled, boiled, or steamed dishes instead. At home, grill burgers, and bake — don’t fry — potato chips or wedges to make a side dish. Steam, boil, or roast vegetables, instead of frying them.

7. Train your toddler’s taste buds. How many children like the taste of food that is not deep fried, who consider steamed, boiled, or roasted dishes worthy of inclusion at their birthday party? Not many, if you consider that many Filipino kids can name the mascot of the leading fastfood chain even before they take their first step.

“Parents or guardians should introduce healthy food early to little children,” said Jemima David-Dacanay, RND, of the Center for Weight Intervention and Nutrition Services at St. Luke’s Medical Center — Global City. “Research shows that once you introduce strong tastes to kids, they will look for those tastes,” said Ms. Dacanay. The first three years of life are crucial in determining children’s future food preferences and eating patterns, said Nutrition Australia.

Training your toddler’s taste buds will take much effort and time. This is a challenge that Ms. Dacanay, who has a baby boy, will soon face. Still, she believes that starting him early on healthy food that is low in trans fats will pay off in the long run. Ms. Dacanay quoted Mahatma Gandhi, who said, “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”


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" Milagros A. Ramos invented the submerged method of cultivating edible mushroom mycelium (the vegetative stage of mushrooms) in liquid medium in 1963. Her concept departed from the traditional bed-culture method. "

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