All you wanted to know about fats and oils



All you wanted to know about fats and oils (Getty Image)
All you wanted to know about fats and oils 
Fats have earned a bad reputation over the years and are often considered the villain in a healthy lifestyle.

Many people on a weight loss diet go off fat completely in the pursuit of a quick and drastic weight loss solution. However, fats are needed as they are a rich source of energy. But when consumed in excess, they increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Fats and Oils: All You wanted to Know
Fats play an important role in promoting the absorption of the four important fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). Fats also impart a feeling of fullness and satisfaction and so, delay the onset of hunger. Along with proteins, fats constitute major components of body fluids and cell membranes and so play a vital role.

All fats are high in calories. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll still want to limit the amount of fat you eat.The American Heart Association(AHA) & National Institution of Nutrition (NIN) recommend that the total fat intake should be limited to 15-30 per cent of your total calories.

Fats that increase your chances of heart disease and stroke
Saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol increase your blood cholesterol and can cause a build up of materials that can clog your blood vessels. The blood supply to your heart can be blocked, leading to a heart attack. A blockage in the blood vessels going to your brain can result in a paralysis/stroke.

Saturated fats
These fats include butter, coconut oil, ghee, cheese, whole milk, cream, egg yolks, lard, and skin of poultry, red meat and processed meat like sausages, ham and bacon. The vegetarian sources of saturated fats are coconut oil, cocoa butter and palm kernel oils.

Ghee, butter and coconut oil are easily digested and absorbed and so are recommended for infants, young children and for those suffering from certain medical conditions.

Saturated fats are not very good for your heart. They raise your cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease. That’s why the AHA & NIN recommends that your daily intake of saturated fat must be limited to 8-10 per cent of your total calories. You can reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet by avoiding butter and deep fried foods, giving up bacon and sausage, buying low-fat or fat-free milk & milk products, and avoiding red meat.

Trans Fatty Acids
Years ago, commercial food processors found they could add hydrogen to vegetable oil to make a solid fat product. The result was margarine and vanaspati/dalda. At first, everybody thought these hydrogenated fats also called “trans fatty acids,” or simply “trans fats”, which was great, because they contained no cholesterol. Using margarine instead of butter was considered the healthy thing to do.

But we now know better. Clinical studies show that trans fats tend to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol. According to the well-known Framingham Heart Study, eating just one extra tablespoon of margarine can increase a man’s chances of getting a heart attack by 10 per cent.

Recent studies have suggested that trans fats may also increase your chances of infertility, developing some kinds of cancer, including breast cancer and colon cancer. It greatly increases a pregnant woman’s risk of preeclampsia and may harm her foetus. For people with diabetes, trans fats lower your body’s response to insulin.

The NIN recommends restriction of trans fats to less than 2 per cent of your total fat intake.

Sources of trans fats are bakery products, margarine, vanaspati/dalda, ready to eat (processed) foods, deep fried foods like samosas, bhajias, french fries, chips etc and sweets like jalebis, gulab jamuns etc. Opt for low fat milk & milk products. A recent study showed that roasting flaxseeds, which is considered to be good for reducing cholesterol and triglycerides increased the amount of transfats. So, avoid eating roasted flaxseeds. It may not be as healthy as you think.

Also, ensure that you read food labels and look for trans fats before buying any product

Dietary Cholesterol
The body makes some of the cholesterol in the blood. The rest comes from the foods we eat. Dietary cholesterol is present only in animal foods. It is important to note that vegetable oils do not contain cholesterol and the companies promoting their oils as cholesterol free are only fooling you.

Sources of cholesterol are milk & milk products, butter, ghee, egg yolks, liver, brain and other organ meats, red meat and poultry

Dietary Cholesterol
Your cholesterol intake should be restricted to less than 200 mg/day. One can reduce both saturated fat and cholesterol intake by limiting the consumption of high-fat animal foods like butter, ghee, meat, egg and organ meats and consuming low fat (skimmed) milk instead of whole milk. However, the NIN recommends consumption of eggs (3eggs/ week) in view of the several nutritional advantages of eggs.

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Unsaturated Fats
Monounsaturated Fats (MUFA)
They are liquid at room temperature but start to solidify when refrigerated. Monounsaturated fats do not raise your cholesterol; hence it is recommended that you get 8-10 per cent of your fat calories from monounsaturated fats. Sources of MUFA are avocado, olive oil, groundnut oil, canola oil, rice bran oil, peanut butter, nuts, olives and sesame seeds.

Polyunsaturated Fats
Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and remain liquid in the fridge. The intake of PUFA should be 8-10 per cent of your total energy intake. They are essential because they cannot be synthesised by the body and have to be obtained from dietary sources. There are two families of PUFA that are essential: Omega-6 and Omega-3

Omega -6 fatty acids
Omega-6 fatty acids, also called linoleic acid, lower total and LDL cholesterol concentrations when taken instead of saturated fatty acids. They also support the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and nervous systems

Sources are Safflower, Sunflower, Cottonseed, Corn, Soyabean oil, Groundnut, Ricebran, Sesame oil also provide moderate amounts of PUFA

Omega-3 fatty acids
You should ensure that you include more omega 3 fatty acids in your diet. Omega 3 fatty acids play a critical role in promoting good health.Studies show that Omega 3 fatty acids not only prevent clogging of the arteries but also protect against diseases like arthritis and colitis, reduce your risk of cancer and Alzheimers.

Soyabean, Canola/Rapeseed and mustard oils, pulses like Black gram (kala chana), kidney beans (rajmah) & cowpea (lobia), mustard and fenugreek seeds and green leafy vegetables are also good sources of omega 3 fatty acids.

Omega3 fatty acids
Nuts and oilseeds like walnuts, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds are considered to be good sources of omega 3 fatty acids but one is required to eat large amounts to meet the requirement of omega 3. Remember they are also rich in calories so we have to keep a watch on the amount of nuts and oilseeds we eat.

Fish like mackerel, sardines, tuna and salmon are also rich sources of omega 3 fatty acids. Eating fish, prepared the low-fat way, 2 to 3 times a week gives protection to the heart.

Choose a combination of oils which maintain a balance so as to give a ratio of polyunsaturated/ saturated (PUFA/SFA) of 0.8-1.0, and linoleic/ -linolenic (n-6/n-3) of 5-10 in the total diet. For ensuring this appropriate balance of fatty acids in cereal-based diets, it is necessary to increase the -linolenic(n-3) acid intake and reduce the quantity of linoleic (n-6) acid obtained from the cooking oil. To get a good proportion of all the classes of fatty acids, it is advisable to consume more than one type of vegetable oils.
NIN recommends a blend of two or more vegetable oils to be used in daily cooking. The choice of cooking oil should be as follows:

Rice bran/Cotton seed + Safflower/Sunflower/ Soyabean
Groundnut/Sesame /Rice bran + Mustard
Sunflower / Safflower + Palmolein /Olive
Groundnut/Sesame/Rice bran +Canola
Safflower / Sunflower + Groundnut/Sesame/ Rice bran
Groundnut/Sesame/Rice bran +Soyabean
Palmolein + Soyabean
Safflower/ Sunflower + Palmolein +Mustard

The plant oils in addition contain certain useful substances such as lignans(sesame oil), Tocotrienols(palm oil), sterols, tocopherols (vitamin E) oryzanole and tocotrienols (rice bran oil), carotenoids -all of which reduce cholesterol and have antioxidants properties which repair oxidant damage due to ageing, inflammation which occur in chronic diseases. Some of the useful components are lost during refining of oils, hence use of filtered cold pressed oils is recommended.

Speak to your nutritionist and find out which is the best oil for you and your family.

For frying, use oils which have more stability and a high smoke point. People often choose olive oil because they think it’s healthy but frying in olive oil is not recommended as it has a low smoke point. The common practice of repeatedly using the oil for frying is hazardous as they generate free radicals and form a carcinogenic compound called acryl amide and trans fats that are harmful to our health. On reheating, the viscosity of oil increases, becomes darker in color, and turns rancid

Latest Comment

Excewllent article. It is better if they give details like how much calories one can take and the differecens between ri… Read MoreLakshminarasimhan Krishnagopal

Best example is of potato chips, which have a high amount of trans fats and acryl amide. Therefore, it is advisable not to reheat oils. The oil once used for frying can be used for cooking eg to give tadka to the dal

Cooking sprays are easily available in the market today and are a good option for non stick cooking instead of using butter, oil or shortening. It can be sprayed on the pan ,baking or microwave dish .The ingredients are extra virgin olive oil, soy lecithin and water and they are labeled calorie free and fat free.


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