Nutrition News: Trans fats and Whole grains in the New Year

Besides watching those carbs this year, here are two other food ingredients that can help make or break your health goals for the new year:

Trans fats

As of January 1, we have one more tool to help make better choices when we buy food. The US Food and Drug Administration now requires trans fats on Nutrition Facts food labels.

What’s the big deal? Trans fats are the big brothers of saturated fats—the two bad boys in our diet that contribute to heart disease. Saturated fats raise good and bad cholesterol…not good. Trans fats raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol…really not good.

If you have diabetes, you are at a high risk for heart disease. Your goal for 2006: Select food items with the lowest combined total amount of saturated and trans fat.

Whole grains

Yeah, yeah, we know that whole grain foods are good for us. But why are they important to people with diabetes? According to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, at least 3 servings (or 3 ounces) of whole grain foods a day may reduce one’s risk for heart disease by 20 to 30 percent*

Whole grains are just that—the whole germ, endosperm and bran of a grain seed. Bran is the coarse outer layer where most of the fiber, B-vitamins, protein and minerals such as copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium reside. Beneath the bran lies the endosperm, where the seed stores starch (carbohydrates), protein and more B-vitamins. Farther inside the seed lies the germ—a major storehouse for healthful fats, antioxidants and minerals.

If you have diabetes, you still need to “count” the total carbohydrates in whole grains to control your blood glucose levels. But you also reap the benefits of numerous other nutrients as well.

Happy Healthful New Year!

*References: Whole grain foods and heart disease, J.Am.Coll.Nutr. 2000, 19:291S-299S. Whole grain intake in the Iowa Women’s Health Stud, Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 1998, 68: 248-257. Whole grains and coronary heart disease. Am. J. Clin.Nutr, 1999, 70:412-419.