Fats and Oils - Getting The Right Amount

The internet and media are among the leading sources of information for health and wellness. Dietary fat is a confusing concept for everyone, perhaps due to access to more information than ever, including conflicting information of uncertain and variable quality.

A global survey found that 95% of respondents knew that vitamins were needed for a healthy diet, but only 41% knew certain fats were essential nutrients. The term fat is particularly confusing because 90% of survey respondents associate something negative with fat. Women, associate fat intake with obesity while older men are more likely to associate it with heart health. Survey results suggest that most consumers believe that their fat intake should be as low as possible, and that fat is not needed for a healthy diet.

Importance of fats and oils 

Fats and oils are essential to the body just as are proteins and carbohydrates. Fats are

  • essential for healthy functioning of the body
  • a source of energy and essential fatty acids 
  • necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K too
  • reduce the bulk of food and help in palatability.

All fats and oils are not the same

All fats and oils are high in energy and have an identical calorie value of 9 Kcal /gm except for butter which provides 7 Kcal /gm. The type of oil is just as important for health as its total amount consumed. Some oils are beneficial for good health while others are detrimental. 

Understanding different types of oils

All cooking fats and oils are made up of saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, but in different proportions. 

Saturated Fatty Acids (SFAs)

Fats & oils sources with a high percentage of saturated fatty acids tend to be solid at room temperature. These   include butter, ghee, palm oil, coconut oil, full cream dairy and red meat. Consuming a diet high in saturated fats is associated with an increased risk of heart diseases, as it raises levels of total cholesterol, and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA)

These are liquid at room temperature. Food sources include  oils like olive, groundnut, sesame, rice bran and mustard oil, nuts and seeds like almonds, peanuts, sunflower & pumpkin seeds, egg yolk and fatty fish. It is the best type as these are anti- inflammatory and  lower bad cholesterol and elevate the good cholesterol levels in the body. 

Polyunsaturated fatty Acids (PUFA)

These are also liquid at room temperature. When consumed, lower the level of bad cholesterol but at the same time can also lower good cholesterol. These are of two types:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

It is one of the two essential fatty acids, as humans cannot synthesise  it and they  must get it from food. It is considered especially good for health as it may lower triglycerides, blood pressure, inflammation and improve vascular function. Food sources include mustard, soybean oil, canola oil, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, egg. 

Omega-6 Fatty Acids 

These are are also important for health. However, they  lower not only LDL ( bad) cholesterol  but  also decreases HDL (good) cholesterol, Food sources include  corn, sunflower, safflower,  soybean, canola oil, mustard oil, fish, poultry, seeds. 

Omega-6: Omega-3 Ratio 

Omega 6 and omega 3 PUFA should be present in adequate and balanced proportions in the body because both compete for the enzymes that convert them into more bio-active compounds. The most important factor is the consideration of omega 6: omega 3  when consuming oils.Omega-6 are pro-inflammatory, while omega-3s are anti-inflammatory. Ideal ratio of omega-6: omega-3 = 4:1. If the ratio is unbalanced it can give rise to various disorders such as heart disease, arthritis, depression etc.

Trans fatty acids / Hydrogenated oil

Sometimes unsaturated oils are converted into semi solid form for commercial purposes. This creates trans fatty acids. These also get produced by repeated re-frying of oil. These fats do not have any nutritional value and are very harmful to the body. Sources of trans fats are bakery products, margarine, vanaspati, ready to eat (processed) foods, deep fried foods like samosas, bhajias, french fries, chips etc and sweets like jalebis, gulab jamuns etc 

Practical Considerations

  • Eat the right kind of fats in the right amount. To get a good proportion of all the classes of fatty acids, consume more than one type of vegetable oil and diverse food sources 
  • The only kind of fats that you need to totally avoid are partially hydrogenated fats - found in commercial foods, fast foods, processed foods in form of TRANS FAT.
  • Keep different types of oil in separate bottles 
  • For frying, use oils which have higher smoking point.
  • As far as possible, avoid use of excess oil for deep frying, each time. 
  • While frying, start with a small amount of oil at low heat and add small amounts of fresh oil to replace oil used up in frying.
  • After each deep fat frying, filter the oil to remove suspended particles. These particles aid in early rancidity development.
  • Any oil remaining after frying can be used for cooking like giving tadka to the food or cooking vegetables and others.

Fat-free / low fat products 

It’s easy to find fat-free / low fat foods on grocery store shelves, including salad dressings, ice cream, milk, cookies, cheese, and potato chips. They might seem like a smart choice but aren’t good for overall health. They may be high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and calories—all of which will negatively affect you. They may contain preservatives, artificial food dyes, and other additives. Before buying them, check the label to make sure the lack of fat isn’t replaced with another unhealthy element.

Nutritional Counselling at VLCC Luxe

During the nutritional counselling, the expert dieticians at VLCC Luxe make an individually tailored dietary prescription based upon metabolic, nutritional & lifestyle requirement. They plan a healthy balanced diet offering a variety of foods and beverages. They give guidance on the type and amount of total fats and oils to be consumed both from visible and invisible sources as per the health status. They provide clarity on myths, misconceptions, and false health claims made by advertisers, as fat gives us energy and helps us absorb certain vitamins which is essence to all from cooking to palatability and health in return. 

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