By Prudence Ijah
You are what you eat is a maxim that indicates the need to practice always eating right. With the festive season where there is so much to eat and drink, it is therefore imperative to pay extra attention to ensuring the right food is always consumed.
Food consumption is a critical aspect of every festive season and the December yuletide season is not an exemption. Hence the focus is on consumption of food that is safe, healthy and rich in nutrients, fibers and various classes of food and less calories and trans fat.
Consumption of foods high in trans fats have been linked to 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 died yearly resulting 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. In addition, the practice of recycling oils for frying also leads to trans fatty acids.
With 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 elimination of trans fat from the food supply system.
As global advocacies focus on the need to eradicate 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. According to WHO, ‘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’. It further said that ‘Increased intake of trans fat (>1% of total energy intake) is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease and mortality.
Nigeria is presently on course in putting the appropriate policies in place, as the Fats and Oil Regulations 2019’ and the ‘Pre-Packaged Food, Water and Ice (Labelling) Regulations 2019, when passed into law, will limit trans-fat to 2g per 100g of total fat in all Fats, Oils, and Foods while the later 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 advice that it is critical to pay attention to what we eat, and call for the consumption of more plant-based diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain cereals as well as animal sourced foods that limits 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 over indulgence in unhealthy eating habits that could endanger one’s health.
Prudence Eboagwu-Ijah writing from Abuja