Unfortunately, oils&fatshave been given a bad reputation mainly because,”fat” is the way we store excess calories. Also, few fats like saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, and cholesterol have been linked with conditions like cardiovascular disease, obesity& related disorders. But, some fats are absolutely essential for health – maintains brain, nervous system, skin & cell health and hormonal production. So, both the quality of the fat and the quantity we use becomes vital.
Body needs oils & fats in its most natural form not bottled oils & fats. But unfortunately, we do not know how to cook without the medium of oil. The natural form of oils are nuts & seeds like coconut, groundnut, almonds, cashew, til, flax, khuskhus, seeds of pumpkin, sunflower, melon, etc.,and fruits like avocados. Usebottled oils and fats wisely. It is a wrong notion that “more the oil used, tastier the food is”. We can cook most recipes without oil or with minimum oil. It needs a little more patience and creativity to make the dish tasty and attractive with less oil.
Which oils to use??? Any vegetable oil which has been used in the family for generations is the right oil, but buy them unrefined to get all the goodness intact – cold pressed or hand pressed oils. Any oil, heated to 160 degree centigrade(beyond smoking point), incorporates free oxygen radicals into the fat to convert the fat into hydroxy-fat that is dangerous to blood vessels, leading to heart disease.
How much? Lesser the better. Max could be, less than half a litre per person per month (cold pressed oils & ghee, put together). This translates into 2-3 tsp /day/person.
Ghee:is made ofshort chain fatty acids. These are metabolized in the body in a different way. They reach the liver directly through portal vein and get oxidized to energy and gets used up like carbohydrates and not like oils which get stored. According to Ayurveda, ghee is also known to have some benefits, acts as an antiseptic, helps digestion, enhances immunity, lubricates joints and cartilage and protects body from sun damage. More important, we Indians are used to eating ghee and our bodies are genetically programmed to take it well. So, have ½ tsp pure ghee/day, provided, you stick to the recommended total intake of oils & fats. Another aspect one needs to be aware & consider is, the abuse the dairy animals go through before making the decision of consuming ghee.
Low fat foods: Do not fall prey to marketing gimmicks trying to sell low fat, baked or fat free junk foods. They are just as harmful as the full fat fried items, probably even more – one, because we don’t exercise caution we think they are low fat and two, think about all the colours, flavours, preservatives, salt, sugar, additives which come along with it. The fact is, most low fat foods are barely 1 or 2 grams lower in fat than full fat versions and baked foods are made of trans-fats – more dangerous.
Hydrogenated fats (trans-fats): it can raise not only bad cholesterol, but also lower the high density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol, and can interfere with essential fatty acid functions. Food sources of trans-fats – fried and baked foods. Check on food labels for margarine, dalda, vegetable shortening or partially hydrogenated fats or hydrogenated fats and avoid them completely.
Cooking methods: Use healthy methods of cooking like broiling, roasting or poaching to help in reducing fat intake.
-Dr. Gauri Rokkam,
M.Sc. (Food & Nutrition),
Ph.D. (Yoga & Life Sciences)