During my recent visit to Kashmir, I noticed that people of Kashmir are consuming a lot of unhealthy foods, especially ones rich in trans-fat. This is why health problems are on rise in Kashmir. Be it young, old or even children, everyone is suffering from health ailments. Eating clean and healthy food is one of the basic requirements for a healthy body. But, since most people in Kashmir lack awareness about what is good and what is bad, they often end up consuming foods that are highly hazardous to health.
Trans-fat is an unhealthy substance which is directly related to heart disease. Trans-fats or trans-fatty acids are broadly classified into two categories; naturally occurring and artificially processed. Naturally occurring trans-fats are produced in the gut of some grazing animals and foods made from these animals (e.g. milk and meat products) may contain minute quantities of these fats. On the other hand artificial trans-fats are created in an industrial process (hydrogenation) that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils. These partially hydrogenated oils are used by food manufacturers to improve the texture, shelf life and flavour of foods. As trans-fats are easy to use, inexpensive to produce and increase shelf life, food manufacturers use them extensively in their products, not caring about the deleterious effects these fats have on our health. Eating trans-fat raises the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol in the blood. An elevated LDL blood cholesterol level increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases(like heart attacks and strokes). Moreover higher LDL levels are associated with an increased risk of developing type II diabetes. Higher consumption of trans-fats has been linked to a number of other ailments such as liver dysfunction, obesity and memory loss etc. as well. Recently some researchers showed that trans-fats can also damage the inner lining of blood vessels.
Almost all the developed nations have set certain guidelines to limit the use of partially hydrogenated oils in food products but in our state, in the absence of any food safety laws, there is no visible regulation till date. Our children are, on a daily basis, consuming a lot of trans-fat by eating packaged snacks and processed fast foods. If we want them to live a healthy and long life, we should immediately stop them from eating processed foods.
Food products containing artificial trans-fats:
Here are some common foods which contain quite high amounts of trans-fats:
- Potato chips
- Corn chips
- Deep fried food
- French fries
- Baked products
- Fast foods
- Refrigerated dough products
- Cookies and spreads.
Natural foods containing trans-fats:
As mentioned above, natural trans-fats have been part of the human diet ever since we began eating meat and dairy from ruminant animals (such as cattle, sheep and goats). Also known as ruminant trans-fats, they are completely natural and are formed when bacteria in the animals stomach digest grass.These trans-fats typically make up 2-5% of the fat in dairy products and 3-9% of the fat in beef and lamb. However, dairy and meat eaters do not need to be concerned. Beef fat, chicken fat, coconut oil, palm and palm kernel oils and milk fat are the natural sources of trans-fats.
Reducing intake trans-fats:
By now most of you must have got an idea about trans-fats and how harmful they are. But how does one stop consuming bad trans-fat? Below are a few points which will be helpful in reducing trans-fat intake.
- Use liquid vegetable oil instead of ghee
- Avoid products with no labels or no information, especially about the nutritional value.
- Use fat free or low fat dairy products
- Avoid eating cakes, biscuits and pastries
- Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables to increase your fibre intake
- Eat fewer fried foods
- Choose skinless poultry and lean cuts of meat
- Prefer whole grains, beans and peas
- Avoid ready to eat frozen foods
- When buying packaged foods, always look at the number of grams of trans-fat in the Nutrition Facts table and choose products with the lowest possible amount.
- Try to use healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats more often. These include olive oil and vegetable oils
- Avoid using coconut and palm oil
- Limit using excessive amounts of creams in your food
- Take plenty of foods that are naturally low in fat and high in dietary fibre
- Eat less ice creams and other desserts
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