August 31, 2010

Time To Change The Oil To Benefit Health of Quad Cities

By Genesis Health System

It’s time for an oil change for Quad Cities restaurants that want to help improve the health of patrons.

The Genesis Heart Institute is asking restaurants to take a pledge to make their menu choices trans fat free. Restaurants that pledge to eliminate trans fat will receive a sticker for their entry door and will be listed on the Genesis Heart Institute web site at

Restaurants and food services are now looking more often for the label TFF (trans fat free) on products to provide their customers with a healthy alternative to the use of artificial trans fat. Naturally occurring trans fat sources include meat and dairy products, but natural trans fat is not included in the Quad Cities initiative.

Woodfire Grill in Davenport was the first restaurant to take the pledge to be trans fat free.

“Restaurants that participate will be providing a great service to the health of their customers,” said Dr. George Kontos, a cardiovascular and general surgeon, Genesis Medical Center, Illini Campus. “Saturated and trans fats are the primary dietary causes of high cholesterol, which is a primary factor in the development of heart disease. Trans fat is the most dangerous type of dietary fat. It increases bad (LDL) cholesterol and lowers good (HDL) cholesterol and it has no known health benefits.”

One of the criticisms of using trans fat free oils for frying is that the taste is compromised.

“I doubt that anyone can really taste the difference between foods fried in oil with trans fat and trans fat free oils,” said Toby Christianson, owner, Woodfire Grill. “We’ve been using trans fat free oils for several years and I don’t think anyone has ever told us they can taste a difference.”

Christianson challenged media representatives at the news conference to identify the difference in taste between foods fried in both oils.

Foods commonly containing artificial trans fat are foods fried in commercial cooking oils. Trans fat is also in vegetable shortening, margarine, cakes, crackers, cookies, pies, pastries and buns.

Todd Frisch, manager of food and nutrition services at Genesis Medical Center, Davenport, said the Genesis operation is moving toward a goal being trans fat free. However, in a large operation, the goal requires a great deal of label reading.

“We have become trans fat free with our own preparation, but we still haven’t found pre-packaged and pre-made cookies, pies, cakes, soups and some of those products that are trans fat free,” Frisch said. “Hopefully in the next year, we will be on board with the pledge. We do look for the TFF on labeling and reading nutritional labels and we are asking our vendors for alternatives to items that use trans fat. We haven’t found trans fat alternatives for everything we need yet.”

To become a member of this healthy initiative, restaurants will receive information and a letter with their pledge to be trans fat free. For more information about the program, call 563-421-9275.