Note from John: For World Health Day, I’ve asked my colleague Kathryn Taubert, PhD, FAHA, to write a guest blog post. Kathryn is our Vice President of Global Strategies working closely with our CEO, CMO, myself and other American Heart Association (AHA) senior leaders to collaborate and establish partnerships with international organizations to broaden the AHA’s support of and impact on global health. Kathryn enjoyed a 25-year career at AHA that began in 1985 as a Staff Scientist / Science Consultant before being promoted to Vice President, Science and Medicine and then ultimately advancing to Sr. Scientist and Special Asst. to the Chief Science Officer before joining the World Heart Federation in 2010.
Did you know that globally, more than 200 diseases are caused by unsafe food? This leads to millions of people falling ill due to contaminated food or drinking water and up to 2 million of them die as a result. If you live in the USA or another developed country, you may not think about food safety very often; unfortunately, it is a huge global issue.
That’s why this year’s World Health Day theme is “Food Safety”, and calls on producers, policy makers and the public to promote this important issue. The global health awareness day is sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and has been celebrated annually since 1950 on April 7th.
On World Health Day 2015, it is important to raise awareness of the issue of food safety. WHO asks us some pertinent questions, such as:
- What is in your meal?
- Where did the ingredients come from?
- Were they properly – and safely – handled from every stage, from farm to plate?
The US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition wants to raise awareness that food safety is a worldwide issue and our food supply becomes more global every year.
Beyond this, we should ask ourselves if we really know what is in the food we purchase and consume. Even if food is free from contamination, is it “safe”? Is it heart healthy? Sometimes, that is a difficult question to answer.
People are consuming less fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains and in the US and other parts of the world, there is more and more processed food being manufactured. Many of these foods are high in bad fats (saturated fat and trans fat), sugar and salt (sodium chloride). These ingredients can lead to weight gain, an increased risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, especially if consumed frequently.
When shopping for groceries, here are some helpful tips in making healthy food choices:
- Choose lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat.
- Eat fish at least twice a week. Research shows that eating oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids (for example, salmon, trout and herring) may help lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease.
- Select fat-free, 1 percent fat and low-fat dairy products.
- Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to help reduce trans fat in your diet.
- To lower cholesterol, reduce saturated fat to no more than 5 to 6 percent of total calories. For someone eating 2,000 calories a day, that’s about 13 grams of saturated fat.
- Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars.
- Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt (sodium chloride). Reducing sodium intake can help lower blood pressure.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. That means one drink per day if you’re a woman and two drinks per day if you’re a man.
To help you better understand commercially prepared food labels, the American Heart Association has some food labeling tips: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Understanding-Food-Nutrition-Labels_UCM_300132_Article.jsp
Bon appétit and happy World Health Day!
– Kathryn Taubert, PhD