Eating HealthyThe week before Father’s Day is Men’s Health Week to create awareness about some of best ways to show dad you care.  No, I’m not talking about nagging him into going to the doctor, although that’s not a bad idea.  Here are three ways to help him take care of his health that will make his doctor smile when he finally does go.
Not All Fat Is the Same.
You may have noticed labels on foods about trans fats.  I’ve even seen restaurant menus advertising no trans fats.  So, what the big deal about trans fats?
I bet you wouldn’t guess that someone actually patented a kind of fat.  Well, trans fats were in 1902 and they were introduced into our food in 1911 as Crisco.  Bacteria can’t digest them, so trans fats can increase processed food shelf life, if you can call stuff like Twinkies food.
The problem is that we can’t metabolize trans fats either.  Since we can’t turn them into energy, they end up lining our arteries and livers.  And, research shows they pose a definite risk factor in the development of coronary artery disease.
You may be wondering why they’re still in our food.  Stymied by industry pressure, the FDA only required labeling of trans fats in 2006. That has helped us consume about 50 percent less, but you may be eating small unlabeled amounts.  Companies don’t have to warn of trans fats on labels of products with 0.4 grams per serving or less.
Besides reading labels, you can help dad avoid trans fats by switching to whole foods.  You remember fresh fruits and vegetables that don’t come with a list of ingredients.  Besides cutting back on trans fats, you’ll be adding disease-fighting ingredients to his diet the natural way.
Why Sugar Is a Modern Problem
Until around the 17th century, sugar was more expensive than gold so few people ate much of it.  High-fructose corn syrup and other forms of cheap sugar now spike about 80 percent of some 600,000 edible products.
Research shows that sugar is the proximate cause of diabetes worldwide, but the FDA has not set a Dietary Reference Intake amount for sugar.  If you’re going to set your own, be aware there are 56 different names for sugar to keep you in the dark.  Labeling also lists “total” sugars, which sounds like what you need to know.  That’s also misleading because you can’t distinguish between naturally-occurring sugar and artificial stuff companies have added, which is more dangerous.
Again, when reading labels doesn’t help, switch to foods that don’t have a list of ingredients.  That’s whole fruits and vegetables.  For some, you may have to go organic to avoid a long list of untested chemicals along with some known to be dangerous.  You can find out which produce contains pesticides and how many different chemicals may be on the worst offenders with the Dirty Dozen Foods list.
A Few Shakes too Many
Consuming a lot of salt correlates with heart disease and stroke, but people do ok on low-salt diets of about 0.8 grams of sodium.   High salt consumption has been linked to 2.3 million heart-related deaths in 2010 alone.  According to the American Heart Association, even young people should keep salt down to 2.3 grams per day.  Dad will probably need to cut that back to 1.5 grams, but it’s worth it to have him healthier longer.
A lot of people use more salt as they age, because their taste sensitivity goes down.  If you think that might be the case with you, try using more hot spices and see if that can take the place of extra salt.

Wiley Long is founder and president of Medigap Advisors, and is passionate about helping people navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. He is the author of The Medicare Playbook: Designing Your Successful Health Coverage Strategy, a clear and simple explanation so you can make the most of your Medicare coverage.