Cooking Fats & Oils – Which Ones?
Fats and oils make up a very small segment of the food pyramid. They have always been the topic of misinformation and speculation. For the last few decades, they have received a bad reputation resulting in various fat-free products and low-fat diet programs in the market. However, they hold an important place in weight loss programs. Fats and oils contain saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. The main difference between fats and oils is that solid fats are solid at room temperature like ghee, butter, etc while oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature. However, not all fats can be labelled as bad. Though they are to be consumed in small amounts they play a major role in the diet. Oils provide essential nutrients to maintain the body functions. From the transportation of fat soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E, and K to the target organs (with the absence of fats there can be nutritional deficiencies) to the protection of the vital organs, fats play an important role. Apart from this fats and oils also serve as an efficient source of energy as each gram of oil provides 9 kilocalories. They help build healthy cell membranes, assist the nervous system by sending a message to the brain, help in maintaining healthy skin and regulating hormones.
We use oils on a daily basis in some form or the other. Right from the greasing of pans to basting of our roasts to being a part of our salad dressings they are a part of our daily diet. Choosing the right cooking oil or fat is always confusing. Oils are classified as saturated and unsaturated. Knowing the type of fat your cooking oil is will help in knowing whether it is good for health or not.
Some of the cooking oils have saturated fatty acids (SFA). Saturated oils are solid at room temperature. They can also be called as vegetable fats. Lesser the intake of the saturated fats the better it is as a high intake of these oils increases the risk of obesity, high lipid levels and heart problems. Examples of saturated fat based oils are butter, lard, ghee, margarine, coconut oil, palm oil, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils like dalda. Research says replacing saturated oils with unsaturated oils lowers the HDL blood cholesterol as high HDL cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease.
Trans fatty acids (TFA) are formed by the partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils making the oil solid at room temperature, eg dalda. Trans fat is considered as the worst type of fat as it raises the LDL (bad) cholesterol and decreases the HDL (good) cholesterol. A variety of food products contain trans-fats like baked foods, microwave popcorn, fried snacks, cream and margarine.
Unsaturated oils tend to be liquid at room temperature and are typical of plant origin except the one found in fish. They are divided into two groups: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
Monounsaturated oils are found in olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, etc.
Polyunsaturated oils are found in corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, etc. Polyunsaturated fats cannot be made by the body and so one needs to get them from food. Hence, they are also called as essential fats. Polyunsaturated fats are also of two types: Omega 3 fatty acids and Omega 6 fatty acids. Good sources of omega 3 fatty acids are fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines, flax seeds and walnuts. Omega 3 fatty acids help in reducing the bad cholesterol and lowers the risk of stroke and heart diseases when consumed in moderate amounts. Omega 6 fatty acids found in vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower, corn, walnut and soyabean oils are also linked to protection against heart disease.
According to WHO (World Health Organization), a maximum of 30% of total energy intake should be from fats and oils. The intake of SFA and TFA should be as low as possible. SFA should provide less than 7% of total energy in order to reduce the risk of developing the non-communicable diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular diseases. Consumption of vegetable oil and fats should be in moderation; stopping the intake of vegetable oils can be detrimental to our health. We need vegetable oil and fats as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
However, an increased intake of oil will lead to weight gain and can cause high lipid levels thus increasing the risk of diabetes and heart problems. As oils are important for functions mentioned above a decreased intake with reference to weight loss will cause deficiencies of fat-soluble vitamins, an imbalance in hormones etc.
It is very important to choose the oils wisely and incorporate them in the right amounts in the diet to prevent the hazardous after effects. All oils have their own benefits. It is a good option to rotate the oils every 2 months to get its benefits.
A healthy diet plan will always have the right incorporation of oils for the benefits that they provide. Café Nutrition’s trained nutritionist in Mumbai and dietitians in Mumbai can help you make fats and oils a part of a healthy eating plan. As far as a sportsperson who is looking to lose weight for the sport is concerned, our sports nutritionist will ensure that the right amount of fats and oils are included in the sports plan to not have a negative impact on the performance.