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Residence Dining Services at Western is working very hard to eliminate all trans fats from their menu.
The following aggressive and trend-setting steps are being taken in order to create the healthiest eating environment currently possible.
It is important to remember that eliminating trans fat from a major dining service is a process, not an event. Food suppliers must be identified and approved both for product quality and vendor status. Western provides numerous options at every meal and is continually investigating ways to make their offerings more healthful without compromising taste or food quality.
It is not difficult to steer clear of trans fats in Residence. Following are some suggestions of foods to enjoy and foods to avoid, which will help you both avoid trans fats, but also maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
What are dietary fats?
Fats in foods are made up of 4 different types of fatty acids - polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, saturated and trans. Trans fats are found naturally in some animal-based foods, but are also formed when liquid oils are made into semi-solid fats like shortening and hard margarine.
While consuming too much fat should be avoided and several types of fat are unhealthy, fat is an important part of a healthy diet. Fat in the diet allows the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamins A, D, and E. In general terms, saturated fats tend to increase the risk of heart disease, while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats tend to lower the risk of heart disease.
Oils high in monounsaturates are olive oil and canola oil. Polyunsaturated fats, made up of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids are essential to good health. These fatty acids are not synthesized by the body, but must be obtained from foods in the diet. The omega-6 essential fatty acids are highest in vegetable oils such as corn, sunflower and soybean oils; and the omega-3 in some vegetable oils such as canola and soybean oils as well as in fish oils.
Why are trans and saturated fats an issue for Canadians?
While Canadians have reduced their total fat intake over the last two decades, we are still consuming too much saturated and trans fat. Science shows that consuming either saturated or trans fat raises the blood levels of the so-called 'bad' cholesterol (serum LDL-cholesterol).
LDL-cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. In addition to raising 'bad' cholesterol, trans fat also reduces the blood levels of the so-called 'good' cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol). HDL-cholesterol protects against heart disease.
Where do trans fats come from?
Some low levels of trans fat have always been found naturally in our food supply in the fat in the meat and milk from ruminant animals (e.g. cows; sheep). These fats are produced by the normal action of bacteria in the gut of ruminants.
Some liquid vegetable oils such as canola and soybean oils, and fish oils, also contain small amounts of trans fats, which are formed in the commercial refinement of these oils. These oils may contain up to 2.5% trans fatty acids, but are also important sources of the essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Trans fat is also formed when manufacturers use a chemical process that turns liquid oil into a semi-solid form, like shortening and margarines. This process is referred to as "partial hydrogenation". Fats and oils that are solid or semi-solid at room temperature have advantages for food production.
They spoil and break down less easily under conditions of high temperature heating. These properties make them better for frying. Products made with these fats also have a longer shelf life than if made with liquid oils.
What are the main sources of trans fats?
Most of the trans fat in our diet comes from margarines, especially hard margarines, commercially fried foods and bakery products that are made with shortening, margarine, or partially hydrogenated oil. These include crackers, cookies, donuts, pastries, muffins, and croissants, snack foods and fried foods such as french fries and breaded foods. The trans fat content of these foods may be as high as 45% of the fat.
Trans fat does occur naturally at low levels (2 to 6% of the fat) in food such as dairy products, beef and lamb, and in some liquid oils.
How can we reduce trans fat intake?
Canada's Guidelines to Healthy Eating advises Canadians to choose lower fat dairy products, leaner meats and foods prepared with little or no fat. Canadians can significantly reduce their intakes of saturated and trans fats by avoiding commercially fried foods and high fat bakery products. Eating more vegetables and fruit, whole grain breads and cereals, peas, beans, lentils and nuts, will also result in lower intakes of both saturated and trans fats.
What is being done to reduce levels of trans fats in food?
Health Canada, in conjunction with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, will work through a multi-stakeholder task force to develop recommendations and strategies for reducing trans fats in Canadian foods to the lowest levels possible. The task force, being established with the support and participation of the food processing and food service industries, will include representatives from health associations, government, academia, and industry in order to achieve the common goal of significant reduction of trans fats in the diet of Canadians.
While the task force will consider suitable alternatives to trans fats, it is essential that alternatives are also safe, and maintain the health benefits provided currently by some oils, such as canola and soybean. In addition, substitution of trans fat containing oils with highly saturated fats should be avoided.
In addition, as part of its ongoing commitment to provide Canadians with the information they need to make healthy lifestyle choices, the Government of Canada introduced mandatory nutrition labeling for prepackaged foods. Canada was the first country in the world to introduce mandatory labeling of trans fat. The new nutrition labeling regulations will require that Calories and the content of 13 core nutrients, including trans fat, be listed on the labels of most pre- packaged foods by December 12, 2005.
Nutrition Facts tables have already begun to appear on food labels, and will be mandatory starting in December 2005. This approach, which includes the opportunity to label foods as containing no trans fats, has led the food manufacturing industry to actively reduce the trans fat content of their foods seek alternatives. Several companies have already announced the elimination of, or their intent to eliminate, trans fat in their products.
The mandatory labeling of trans fat is intended to assist consumers in making healthy food choices enabling them to limit their intake of trans fat.
What is the Government doing to eliminate trans fats?
As of January 1, 2006 food manufacturers are required by the Health Canada to provide trans fat content on Nutrition Facts labels as a separate line item listed below saturated fat content. No % DV (percent of daily value) information is required on the label as there has been no safe level established for dietary intake of trans fat.
Balance your food intake with your daily activities and energy needs to maintain a healthy weight.