Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Trans Fat And Christmas: Why Eating Right Is Imperative

Prudence Eboagwu-Ijah
Prudence Eboagwu-Ijah

“You are what you eat” is a maxim that indicates the need to always eat right. With the festive season where there is so much to eat and drink, it is imperative to pay extra attention to ensure the right food is always consumed.

Food consumption is a critical aspect of every festive season and the Yuletide is no exemption: hence, the focus is on the consumption of food that is safe, healthy and rich in nutrients, fibres and various classes of food, with fewer calories and trans fat.

Consumption of foods high in trans fats has been linked to an increase in the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancers, dementia and death.  According to new estimates by the World Health Organization, over 250, 000 persons die yearly from complications associated with the consumption of foods high in trans fats. This statistic has led to the call for the global elimination of industrially-produced trans fat by 2023.

The sources of trans fat in food emanates from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils which are found in margarine’s, shortenings, cakes, pies and cookies, candies crackers, snack foods, microwave popcorn, frozen pizzas, frozen biscuits, pastries, muffins, doughnuts, breaded and fried chicken and fish, fried fast foods etc. In addition, the practice of recycling oils for frying also leads to trans fatty acids.

With the consumption of foods high in trans fat and its attendant implications on the health of the populace, it is important to put in place a regulation to ensure the elimination of trans fat from the food supply system.

As global advocacies focus on the need to eradicate the consumption of foods high in trans fat, it is very crucial to be more intentional when making decisions on food choices.

You will recall that the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2018 made a global call to governments to remove trans fats from their food supplies in a bid to have a healthy population. Industrially produced trans fat has been identified as one risk factor for many heart-related diseases that lead to hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths globally.

The WHO further provided a workable template for trans fat elimination through the ‘Remove and Replace’ package. The WHO said: “the ‘replace action’ package provides a strategic approach to eliminating industrially-produced trans fat from national food supplies, with the goal of global elimination by 2023. Increased intake of trans fat (>1 per cent of total energy intake) is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease and mortality.  

Nigeria is presently on course to emplacing appropriate policies, through the Fats and Oil Regulations 2019 and the Pre-Packaged Food, Water and Ice (Labelling) Regulations 2019. When passed into law, both will limit trans-fat to 2g per 100g of total fat in all fats, oils, and foods while the latter will ensure proper labelling of food products in Nigeria in the context of industrially-produced TFAs.

Considering the important role that diets play, health experts advise that it is critical to pay attention to what we eat and call for the consumption of a more plant-based diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain cereals, as well as animal-sourced foods that limit red meat. While cooking oil should be derived from sources like olive, corn oil, groundnut oil, soybean oil, rapeseed oil.

In a bid to resist the temptation of overeating healthy food during the festive season, nutrition experts stress the need for caution and portion control when eating food as getting too much of a good thing can be just as bad as eating something unhealthy.

They further recommend that eating before going out for events will help to resist the temptation of eating unhealthy foods while the use of small plates when eating helps to achieve portion control

In addition, healthy dietary habits should be combined with some regular exercise to have increased benefits and reduce overindulgence in unhealthy eating habits that could endanger one’s health.

Prudence Eboagwu-Ijah, is the program manager, TransfatfreeNigeria Campaign, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa. She can be reached on prudenceijah@cappaafrica.org.

Prudence Eboagwu-Ijah
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