Low-fat, non-fat, good fat, bad fat — fat, fat, fat. Oh, how I hate that word! The fact that so many different theories on which fat and how much is to be consumed has been touted in health news does not help. The latest is “low-fat is bad, our bodies need fat, blah, blah, blah.”
Yes, we need fat. How would our skin and hair look without it? Fat serves as an energy reserve for food eaten in excess of immediate need and provides about 60% of the energy needed to perform the body’s work. It also acts as an insulator to vital organs.
We need not be worried about getting enough of fat — our Indian diet contains plenty, if not too much fat.
There has been a lot of news about good and bad fats in recent health literature. Is ghee ok, should I switch to olive oil, which fat is butter are commonly asked questions. Here is a summary of good and bad fats.
Bad fat — usually solid. The two main types of potentially harmful dietary fat:
- Saturated fat. This is a type of fat that comes mainly from animal sources of food. Saturated fat raises total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Saturated fat may also increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. Ghee and butter are sources.
- Trans fat. Most trans fats are made during food processing through partial hydrogenation of unsaturated fats. This process creates fats that are easier to cook with and less likely to spoil than are naturally occurring oils. It preserves food, makes things taste crispier, fluffier, and often times better. But they are extremely unhealthy. Research studies show that these trans fat can increase unhealthy LDL cholesterol and lower healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. Dalda, vanaspati and hydrogenated oil are all trans fats.
- Monounsaturated fat. (MUFA) Studies show that eating foods rich in MUFAs improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease and that MUFAs may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes. Canola and safflower oils as well pistachios, almonds and peanuts are all high in MUFAs.
- Polyunsaturated fat. This is a type of fat found mostly in plant-based foods and oils. Evidence shows that eating foods rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. PUFAs may also help decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes. Foods rich in Omega-3 are examples of PUFAs — walnuts, flaxseed, and oily fish like sardines and mackeral.
Foods made up mostly of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, such as olive oil, safflower oil, peanut oil and corn oil.
Take away: MUFAs and PUFAs are good for the body, but if you have too much of fats, even good fats, you will pack on the pounds — after all fats are calorific and taken in excess will make you fat!