NEWMARKET – February is Heart Health Month and York Region Public Health encourages residents to look at the nutrition label for information about the type and amount of fat contained in food choices. Research has found that it is not only the total amount of dietary fat that you eat that affects heart health, but so does the type.
Canadians now have access to an important tool that will help protect their hearts. As of December 2005, new regulations have mandated food companies to put a Nutrition Facts table on most pre-packaged foods. The Nutrition Facts table lists important nutrient information, including quantities of saturated and trans fat. The label helps consumers make informed choices and makes it easier to compare similar food products.
While Canadians have reduced their total fat intake over the past several years, we are still consuming too much saturated and trans fat. Studies have shown that both saturated and trans fat raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol levels, a known risk factor for heart disease. But unlike saturated fat, consuming too much trans fat also reduces high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or "good" cholesterol, which helps protect against heart disease.
Trans fat can be found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, cookies, donuts and other bakery products, snack foods, ready-to-eat entrees and fried fast foods. Saturated fats are found in full fat dairy products, fatty meats, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm oils.
Current recommendations advise keeping our intake of both saturated and trans fat as low as possible and reading nutrition labels is one way to accomplish this. When comparing food products look at the Nutrition Facts table and choose the food with the least amount of trans and saturated fat.
In the few cases where the Nutrition Facts table is not be available, read the ingredient list and look for words such as partially hydrogenated and/or vegetable oil shortening as these ingredients mean that the product contains trans fat.
Additional tips on how to reduce your intake of saturated and trans fats include:
• Limit your consumption of processed and deep-fried fast-foods. These foods are the major sources of trans and saturated fats in the diet
• Consume "heart-healthy" unsaturated fats. These fats help reduce blood cholesterol levels and help lower the risk for heart disease. Foods such as olive, canola and other vegetable oils, fish, nuts, seeds, soybeans, and avocados are sources of unsaturated fats
• Eat more vegetables and fruit
• Choose lower-fat milk products and leaner meats
• Remove skin from poultry and trim visible fat off meat
• Eat fish and other meat alternatives more often
• Use soft non-hydrogenated margarine or oil instead of hard stick margarine or butter
In addition to reading nutrition labels to reduce your intake of saturated and trans fat, a well-balanced diet following Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating, along with a healthy lifestyle, is a sure way to keep your heart beating healthy and strong.
For more information on healthy eating or other health-related questions, contact York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or visit www.york.ca
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For more information on the Regional Municipality of York and the services our Region offers, please visit our Web site at: www.york.ca
Media Contact Jennifer Mitchell-Emmerson, York Region Health Services
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