November 2003 Edition
Healthcare: Dealing with Diabetes

Diabetes is a leading cause of death in Canada and more than two million Canadians cope with diabetes. While medical advances have improved our ability to treat the disease, the single most effective weapon continues to be a healthy diet - which is where foodservice professionals like you can help.

Diabetes is a disorder of the metabolism. In a healthy body, the hormone insulin is produced by the pancreas (a small organ located just behind the stomach) and enables glucose to pass from the bloodstream into the body's cells to be used for energy. In a diabetic's body, either the pancreas produces little or no insulin (type 1 diabetes), or the body is unable to use its insulin effectively (type 2 diabetes). When the disease is not controlled, glucose and fats build up in the bloodstream and over time can damage vital organs.

Through dietary control, people with diabetes can keep their blood sugar levels at a consistent, healthy level and avoid complications. This usually means avoiding foods that are high in refined sugars, which can cause glucose levels to spike. To accommodate the needs of your diabetic patrons, consider adding items to your menu that are low in sugar or ones that are sugar-free.

Due to their heightened risk of heart disease and strokes, diabetics are often advised to restrict their consumption of fats, cholesterol and sodium. By offering healthful menu options like green salads with fat-free dressing, grilled seafood and steamed fresh vegetables, you can show your diabetic guests - and other health conscious diners - that you care about their health as well as their dining experience.

With just a few menu additions, you can offer delicious options for your customers who are dealing with diabetes, options that will keep them coming back again and again.

The Truth on Trans Fatty Acids

Pick up any health magazine these days and you'll find at least one article on trans fatty acids, which have emerged as the latest troublemaker in the Canadian diet. So what exactly are trans fatty acids…and what is all the fuss about?

Developed during the backlash against saturated fats (i.e., animal fats found in meats and dairy products), trans fatty acids are formed when manufacturers turn liquid oils into solid fats through hydrogenation. They're found in up to 40% of the foods you see on supermarket shelves, including shortening, margarine, crackers, cereals, and baked goods. Recent studies have shown that eating foods containing trans fat contributes to increases in LDL ("bad" cholesterol) and decreases in HDL ("good" cholesterol), which can lead to clogged arteries and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

As a foodservice professional, you can be of great help to customers watching their trans fat intake by evaluating the products you use. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats - found mainly in canola and olive oils - can result in less LDL and more HDL production in the body. Also, consider offering your guests a low-fat margarine, many of which contain no trans fats at all, with their bread baskets.

And if you do make changes to accommodate health-conscious diets, let your customers know - chances are you'll get a hearty thank-you!