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Fats: Are they really sinful?

Fats: Are they really sinful?

The first thing which we do when are on a weight loss spree is to ban fats from our diet. There’s a belief that fats are bad for your health and solely responsible for a number of lifestyle disorders. But, would our entire weight loss problem be solved if we just eliminated fats from our diets? Are fats really sinful? Let’s get to the bottom of this myth.

Can your body function without fats?

Not really! There is lot more to oils than to just make food tasty!

  1. Dietary fats are needed for the body to function properly as they form the structure of cell membranes, hormones, and blood clotting agents in the body.
  2. They also help in the transport, breakdown, and removal of cholesterol.
  3. They also transport fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and minerals.
  4. Fats provide the body with insulation covering the vital organs, and store excess energy in the adipose tissue as reserve.
  5. They also act as lubricants for joints.
  6. Fats enable you to survive during periods of prolonged mental and physical stress, sickness, and starvation.
  7. Fat stored in tissues can be used as energy reserves during extreme conditions.

Fat is that nutrient which helps us survive during some of our toughest phases. Your body cannot just do without fats!

How can some fats remove cholesterol?

Yes some fats remove cholesterol! This introduces us to the good and bad fats. All oils give the same calories (9 calories/g). They contain 4 kinds of fatty acids- Saturated Fatty Acids (SFA), Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA), Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA), and Trans fats, also known as hydrogenated fats (created during a hydrogenation process where liquid vegetable oils are converted into solid fats) in different amounts; a deciding factor for good, bad, and worst fats!

Good fats (PUFA {N-3 and n-6 fats} & MUFA) contain the type of fatty acids that reduces the “bad” LDL cholesterol (which blocks the blood vessels and causes heart diseases) and increases the good “HDL” cholesterol (which helps in removal of bad LDL cholesterol) in the body.

Bad and Worst Fats (SFA & Trans fats) are those which work the other way round. In fact trans fats not only raise total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, but also lower HDL (good) cholesterol. Hence, they are unhealthy!

DIETARY FAT

SOURCES

PUFA

Safflower (Kardi), Sesame, Soy, Corn & Sunflower-Seed Oils, Walnuts,

Fish

MUFA

Mustard, Olive, Rice Bran Oil, Groundnut Oil, Canola/Rapeseed Oil. Almonds, Cashew Nuts, Sesame Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Avocado

Dietary Cholesterol

Meats, Egg Yolks, Milk & Its Products, Organ Meats, Fish, and Poultry

SFA

Ghee, Palm Oil, Palm Kernel Coconut Oil, Butter

Whole Milk & Its Products (Butter, Ghee, Khoa), Poultry, & Meats

Trans Fats

Cookies, Biscuits, Cakes, Cheese Spreads, Savories, Indian Sweets

 

According to the Faculty of Public Health of the Royal College of Physicians (2011,United Kingdom) the consumption of SFA is generally considered a risk factor for dyslipidemia [abnormal amount of lipids (e.g. cholesterol and/or fat) in the blood] which is also a risk factor for some types of cardiovascular diseases. 

However, according to a feature in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (2011) based on the debate at the American Dietetic Association's 93rd conference regarding saturated fat; the conclusions made by the scientific community at large are as follows:

  • Replacing saturated fat with healthy PUFAs is beneficial for health and cardiovascular disease.
  • PUFAs (especially) and MUFAs are healthy fats, and while there is a place for saturated fats within the diet they however should not be viewed as beneficial.
  • Including healthy fats in foods like nuts, cheese, paneer, and fish hydrate and strengthen facial skin, which is required to keep the skin from wrinkling. The appearance of wrinkles and loss of suppleness is due to loss of fat from the face.

Conclusion

Since different oils contain different fatty acids and each has a lot of health benefits to offer, it is better to use a mixture of oils. You can use it in the ratio 1:1.5:1 (SFA:MUFA:PUFA). For instance, a blend of rice bran and safflower (kardi) oil gives you a combination of MUFA & PUFA balancing the SFA intake.

For a normal adult, WHO recommends 25 to 30% calories in diet from fats (SFA: <10%, PUFA: 8%, MUFA: 12%). According to the National Institute of Nutrition, India, the recommended visible fat intake per day is 20 to 25g per person.

“Rich, fatty foods are like destiny:  They too shape our ends!”

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