With the current preoccupation with obesity and overweight, fats are being considered as something to avoid. However, don’t completely cut out fats from your diet. They play an important role in keeping the body healthy.
- provide energy for all body functions, and are a reserve of energy when stored in the body.
- support health
- make food very tasty
UNDERSTANDING FATTY ACIDS…
Fats with a high content of saturated fatty acids are solid at room temperature and are usually obtained from animal sources, for example, lard, suet and butter.
Trans fats which are also solid at room temperature enhance the flavour, texture, and shelf life of many processed foods but they are a health risk.Small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in beef, lamb, and full-fat dairy products but most are commercially produced by processing liquid vegetable oil into a solid fat – for example Vanaspathi/ Dalda/margarine. Major sources of trans fatty acids are pizzas, cakes, cookies , doughnuts, crackers, meat and dairy products, snack chips, peanut butter and shortening in fried foods.
Most plant oils,except for palm oil and coconut oil, are high in either polyunsaturated (PUFA) or monounsaturated fats (MUFA). Monounsaturated fats should be used as much as possible along with polyunsaturated fats instead of the bad saturated fats and trans fats.
Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids play a very important role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. They help stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system.
Most Omega-6 fatty acids in the diet come in the form of linoleic acid (LA)from vegetable oils and also from leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains and plant oils such as corn oil, unhydrogenated soybean oil, and sunflower oil, safflower oil , olive oil as well as meat and poultry.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids come primarily from fatty fish such as salmon, herring, anchovies, sardines , mackerel, and tuna, as well as from nuts and seeds, soyabean, walnuts, almond, sesame seed and flaxseed in lesser amounts. Alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA )is the primary member of the Omega- 3 family.
Fish oil supplements should be taken under the supervision of your physician.
The Mediterranean diet has a healthier balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as it emphasizes foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, garlic, as well as moderate wine consumption.
- High heat, light, and oxygen destroy essential fatty acids, so while consuming foods for their essential fatty acid content, try to avoid cooked or heated forms. For example, raw nuts are a better source than roasted nuts. Never re-use any type of oil.
- Heating fish? - Omega-3 fatty acids are very easily damaged by heat, light and oxygen. They become rancid and the flavour and taste change and nutritional value is lowered. Baking or steaming fish containing Omega-3 fatty acids are better cooking methods than frying.
- Heating olive oil? – If cooking at high temperatures, use refined olive oil and not virgin oil. The unrefined particles in virgin olive oil are burnt when heated and this spoils the flavour. Use virgin olive oil without heating in salads instead of salad oil for another healthy change.
- Replace hydrogenated fats (like margarine),cholesterol-based fats (butter/dairy products) with healthy essential fatty acid-based fats whenever possible. For example, instead of margarine or butter on your warm vegetables, use extra virgin olive oil with salt.
- Sprinkling flaxseed powder on vegetables adds a slightly nutty taste. Whole flaxseeds are usually passed through the intestine, absorbing water only and not yielding much oil. However, it's best not to use large amounts of flaxseed in its ground seed form, as it contains phytoestrogens.
- Replace oily snack foods, like potato chips and corn chips, with healthy nuts and seeds.
- Vegetarians can achieve a better balance of PUFAs in their body tissues by using less sunflower, safflower and corn oils and more oils containing alphalinolenic acid such as rapeseed (canola) oil, mustard oil, peanutoil, gingelly oil, or soya bean oil. This would encourage their tissues to make more DHA.
- Although most diets supply sufficient linoleic acid, it is often not converted because of metabolic problems caused by diets rich in sugar, alcohol, or trans fats from processed foods, as well as smoking, pollution, stress, ageing, viral infections, and other illnesses such as diabetes.