Gifts to give and take this festive season

During Diwali and the ongoing festive season, there is an increase in the intake of trans-fats among people in the form of sweets, frozen foods and fried food, cakes, and cookies and this increases our risk of hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. As per the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation, the total trans-fat intake should be limited to less than 1 per cent of total energy intake, which translates to less than 2.2 gm per day with a 2,000-calorie diet. Trans fats, better known as bad fats, have been proven as one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular diseases worldwide.

Availability of trans-fats as natural sources in the form of dairy products, meat or industrially produced partially hydrogenated oils are easily available in the market. Partially hydrogenated oils have played a role in food supply since the early 20th century as a replacement for butter. Hydrogenated vegetable oil in the form of vanaspati is consumed in large quantities and is known to have the highest trans fat.

Trans-fat, says Prof Sonu Goel, Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, PGI, is also present in sweets in the form of partially hydrogenated oils and the intake of sweets increases during festivals, especially Diwali.

Dr Goel adds that foods high in trans-fats include cakes, cookies and pies, shortening, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, refrigerated dough, such as biscuits and rolls, fried foods, doughnuts, non-dairy coffee creamer, stick margarine. Dr Goel lists some healthy gifts to give, offer and consume this Diwali.


An excellent source of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants, according to Dr Goel, fruits have a high nutrient density, are low in calories and help in preventing diseases. Give fruit hampers and eat fruit when you experience hunger pangs and sugar cravings.

dry fruits

High in calcium zinc, magnesium, and vitamin A, D, K, E, and B6, dry fruits improve our immunity and prevent cholesterol, bad fat, and diabetes. Moderation is the key: don’t consume more than a handful of a mix of dry fruits.

Almonds: Low in calories, high in antioxidants

Cashews: Help in weight loss (non-fried), high in magnesium

Dates: High in fiber, vitamin B-5, and great for building stamina

Walnuts: Powerhouse of omega-3, and best for cardiovascular health

Dark chocolate: Choose dark chocolate with 55 per cent or more cocoa. Dark chocolate is high in flavonoids and helps in decreasing cell inflammation.

Make sweets using raisins, jaggery, honey, and dry fruit, with a small amount of either coconut, olive, canola, peanut, avocado, sunflower or peanut oil. “To whiten sweets like paneer barfi and milk cake, detergents, white powder, heavy metals, excess corn-starch, are used, and this adulteration can be harmful to the kidneys. Ladoos can use artificial colours, which can cause gastric trouble, indigestion, and foodborne illnesses like vomiting, fever, and diarrhoea, in children and older people. Cramps are the first sign and occur 30 minutes to eight hours after consumption. Take ORS and avoid fruit juice,” adds Dr Goel.

The doctor says it is important to read labels on foods carefully, and if the list includes shortening, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, or hydrogenated vegetable oil, it has trans-fats. Trans-fats are formed during partial hydrogenation, the addition of chemicals, a process that creates fats.

“The benefit is for the manufacturers, as the food has a longer shelf life and can be reheated several times, without it breaking down. Also, it is for manufacturers to write best before date mandatory and we as consumers must be more aware,” Dr Goel says.


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