Gobar Times
Green School

How to cram and much, wisely?

How to cram and munch, wisely?    

It’s that time of the year again. The examinations are round the corner and students of all ages and sizes are compulsorily housebound. As they burn the midnight oil, writing, revising and re-revising, their mouths move almost as furiously as their minds. Oh yes, tucking in tasty tidbits while poring over mounds of books and papers has always been an inherent feature of ‘exam-time’.

But over the years, one basic factor has changed. The food that is consumed in such large portions is no longer made at home. Snacks fresh-out-of-kitchen have been replaced by packets of chips, fries, cookies and chocolates picked up from the local shopping mall. These maybe a convenient option but certainly not a healthy one. Why? Well to find that out we must look more closely at the ingredients that are used to bake, fry and cook these packaged goodies.

One component that is like the lowest common denominator in all that the children are now addicted to is ‘Transfats’.

What are trans fats?
The food processing industry need semi solids for products like cakes and biscuits. They prevent the eatables from turning rancid. These semi solids are transfats produced by partially hydrogenating oil. Hydrogenation is the addition of hydrogen atoms to vegetable oil to break oil’s double bond. In oils, the hydrogen atoms are normally on the same side of the double bond of the carbon chain. During partial hydrogenation, the chain is twisted in a way that they end up on different sides of the chain….trans (from latin: across).

So why shouldn’t you consume transfats?
Because five grams of transfats per day can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 25 per cent. It could also cause diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s.

What are food items that have high transfat content?
All varieties of fast food are high on trans fats. In 2002, fast food giant McDonalds announced that it would phase out trans fats from all its food items in the US.. When it failed to comply, a non-profit organisation, Ban Trans Fats, filed a case in 2003. Succumbing to pressure junk food giant agreed to place notices in all its outlets confessing its failure to switch to lower trans fats cooking oil. It also agreed to pay US $ 7 million to the American Heart Association for a trans fats programme.

Here is a chart that will help you to identify food that you need to avoid eating, generally...

Major Foods that have transfats content
are as follows (in per cent):
  Cakes, cookies, crackers, pies and bread
  Animal products
  Fried potatoes
  Potato chips, corn chips and popcorn
  Household fried stuff
  Salad dressing
  Breakfast cereal

A new research has found that Western food is a lesser evil than the Indian bhatura or parathas. Digest this — while the trans-fatty acids (hydrogenated oils and fats) in french fries (per 100 gm) is 4.2-6.1 per cent it is 9.5 per cent in bhatura, 7.8 per cent in paratha and 7.6 per cent each in puri and tikkis.

Source: http://www.fda.gov/FDAC/features/2003/503_fats.html
Down to Earth, February 1-15, 2009

Does this list cover most of the snacks that school and college goers love to eat? So do we expect them to starve this exam season? Certainly not. We just want them to think before they take a bite. And stay healthy. Here are some ideas.

First things first:
Do not buy packaged fast food without reading the ingredients column. Make sure that trans fat content is less than one per cent,  preferably zero.

Before buying fresh fast food like a burger or pizza call up the vendor and ask about the type of oil that is being used in the shop. To check the trans fat content use the CSE guidebook on:


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How to cram and much, wisely?