A typical adult has approximately 50 billion fat cells!
It basically means there are more fat cells in one human body than there are people on the earth.
Why Do We Need Fat?
- Fat is our best friend during stressful and bad times (sickness, prolonged starvation). If there were no fat, we would not be alive.
- Our brain is composed of 60% fat. You don’t want to lose your mind!
- It transports essential nutrients and protects vital organs.
- It is good for the nervous system.
- It lubricates the joints.
- It keeps the hormones functioning efficiently, especially in women.
Types of Dietary Fat: Good Fats vs. Bad Fats
There are four major types of fats
- Monounsaturated fats (good fat)
- Polyunsaturated fats (good fat)
- Saturated fats (controversial fat)
- Trans fats (bad fat)
Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are known as the “good fats” because they are good for your heart, your cholesterol, and your overall health. When taken in moderation, these fats will not make you ‘Fat’.
Polyunsaturated fats are again divided into 2 types. they are:
- Omega 3 fatty acids: These are the most beneficial of all. They reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and prevent the symptoms of depression and protect against memory loss and dementia.
- Omega 6 fatty acids: These fats protect against chronic inflammation, dermatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, diabetes and even cancer.
Transfat is definitely the big villain and should be avoided. Trans fats raise the levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in the body and eventually increase the risk of heart disease. In addition, trans fats also reduce the levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) in the body and hence are potentially more damaging.
Saturated fat is the most controversial fat and opinion is divided on whether it is good fat or bad fat. We will discuss it in detail in some time.
Appearance-wise, saturated fats and trans fats tend to be solid at room temperature (think of butter or traditional stick margarine), whereas monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats tend to be liquid (think of olive or sunflower oil).
Sources of Fat
|Monounsaturated Fats||Olive, groundnut oil and sesame oils, avocado, nuts, such as almonds, cashews, and pistachios; peanuts and peanut butter|
|Plant food sources include flax seeds, mustard oil and soyabean oil.
Marine sources include fish, especially oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines.
|Nuts, seeds (flax and sunflower) and plant oils such as corn, soy, sunflower, groundnut, and safflower.|
|Trans Fat:||Commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, pizza dough, Packaged snack foods (crackers, microwave popcorn, chips), Stick margarine, Vegetable shortening, Fried foods (French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets, breaded fish), Candy bars|
|Saturated Fats||Ghee, High-fat cuts of meat (beef, lamb, pork), Chicken with the skin, Whole-fat dairy products (milk and cream), Butter, Cheese, Ice cream, Palm and coconut oil, Lard|
Saturated Fat – Controversial Fat
Saturated fat is the most misunderstood type of fat. There is a lot of debate around it. For decades it was considered bad and was blamed for all kinds of diseases, especially heart disease. Let us look at some numbers:
100 years back, heart diseases were insignificant and hardly anybody was dying of heart disease. Come the 1950s and heart disease was seen as the No. 1 cause of death among Americans. Now, heart disease is the cause of about 40% of deaths in the US every year. In India also, the trend is catching up. It is a disease of the affluent. Poor people die of malaria, rich people die of heart attacks!
So, if saturated fat is the major reason behind heart problems, then consumption of saturated fats should have increased in this period. Right? But the opposite had happened.
|Myth: All “Low fat” food products are good
Truth: It is one of the biggest marketing lies. “Low fat” does not mean low sugar, and most of the low-fat products are filled with high amounts of sugar. And most of the time, low-fat products would be only marginally lower in fat than their high-fat counterpart. It is like a murderer proclaiming to be a “low murderer”, as he has committed only 2 murders whereas his friend has committed 3! Not to mention that “low murderer” would have committed 5 rapes & 10 thefts too
|Myth: Cheese should be totally avoided if you are trying to lose weight
Truth: Good news: Cheese can in fact help you in weight loss. They are high in protein. Go for low-fat cheese slices.
|Myth: If it is cholesterol free, then it is very healthy
Truth: Marketing companies continue to amaze us. Some oils claim that it is cholesterol free. Truth is that all oils are cholesterol free. Cholesterol exists only in animal products, so where is the question of any oil having cholesterol? It is like TV, and fridges claiming “Cholesterol Free”. Technically, they are also cholesterol free! The problem with oil is triglycerides and none of the oil companies talks about it.
|Myth: Olive oil is the answer to all my problems
Truth: Olive oil is good, but not an answer to all your problems. Olive oil has a low smoke point, so you cannot use it for deep frying and for most Indian cooking. You can use it for light sautéing or for garnishing. So, don’t throw away all your oil to make space for olive oil.
Which Oil to Use?
It is necessary to know that each fat has a different smoke point or a temperature at which it begins to smoke, decompose and become discoloured. And fat is no longer good for consumption after it has exceeded its smoke point and has begun to break down. Each fat performs best within a certain range of temperature.
|For high heat (for deep frying):||Ghee, peanut oil, palm oil, mustard (sarson) oil, rice bran oil, sunflower oil, and avocado oil (all of them have a smoke point of more than 200º C). Deep frying should be minimized as much as possible.|
|For medium heat (baking, oven cooking, or stir-frying):||Organic butter, canola oil, sesame oil, unrefined peanut oil, and extra virgin olive oil (the smoke point is between 150-200º C for all these oils). You can also use any of the oil mentioned for deep frying for medium cooking as well.|
|For low-heat cooking (sautéing & light baking):||Unrefined olive oil, flaxseed oil (better not to heat it at all), walnut oil (smoke point less than 150-160º C).|
It is extremely confusing to buy oil. Markets these days are all stocked up with refined oils. And we do not like it. We strongly recommend cold-pressed oil, which leaves us with a few options: peanut oil, sarson oil, extra virgin olive oil, and sesame oil. And also ghee. So, don’t get confused with so many oils; just choose between the 5 oils that we have mentioned here depending on the type of cooking and your taste. You can also use butter and cheese in limited quantities.
Fortune and Priya are two companies that manufacture cold-pressed oils. 24 letter mantra also makes cold-pressed oil, though few might find prices to be on the higher side (as they are organic). You will have to put in some effort to locate these oils on the aisles, but trust us, it’ll be well worth it!
We have not seen cold-pressed sunflower or rice bran oil in India. What we get is refined oil, so it is better to avoid them. Please say a big NO to any form of refined oil.
How Much to Consume?
How much fat is too much for you depends on your lifestyle, weight, age, and most importantly your health status? As per the NIN recommendations, for an average individual, the percentage of calories derived from fats should be in the following range: Total fat (Visible + invisible): 20-30% of the total calories. Adults with a sedentary lifestyle can consume about 25g (4-5 teaspoons) of ‘visible fats’. While individuals involved in hard physical work may require 30-40g per day. Fats that are used at the table or in cooking are termed visible fats. Fats that are an integral part of various foods are referred to as invisible fats which come up to 15-30g. Out of total fat, saturated fat should not exceed 8-10%.
But for a person looking for weight loss, the same does not apply. Though it would vary for every person, we recommend 3 tsp of oil/ghee every day. For an easy calculation, remember not to consume more than 1/2 litre of oil per month.