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  • Rita Date

All About Fats

The body needs fat! It’s a major energy source and also helps you absorb certain vitamins and nutrients. Fats are high calories — 9 calories per gram of food as compared to 4 calories each for carbs and protein and they should constitute about 10-15% percent of your total dietary intake.

Here are a few fat myths:

Myth: All fats are equal—and equally bad for you.

Fact: Saturated fats and trans fats are bad for you because they raise your cholesterol and increase your risk for heart disease. But monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are good for you, lowering cholesterol and reducing your risk of heart disease.

Myth: Lowering the amount of fat you eat is what matters the most.

Fact: The mix of fats that you eat, rather than the total amount in your diet, is what matters most when it comes to your  health. The key is to eat more good fats and less bad fats.

Myth: Fat-free means healthy.

Fact: A “fat-free” label doesn’t mean the product is healthy. Nutrients and calories all have to weighed. Many fat free foods are  high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and calories.

Myth: Eating a low-fat diet is the key to weight loss.

Fact: The obesity rates for Americans have doubled in the last 20 years, overlapping with the low-fat craze.Numerous “lowfat” or “nonfat” products hit the market and obviously did nothing to improve the health of the nation. Let’s learn from this. Cutting calories is the key to weight loss, and since fats are filling, they can help curb overeating. You have to choose the right ones in the right proportion.

Myth: All body fat is the same.

Fact: Where you carry your fat matters. The health risks are greater if you tend to carry your weight around your abdomen, as opposed to your hips and thighs. A lot of belly fat is stored deep below the skin surrounding the abdominal organs and liver, and is closely linked to insulin resistance and diabetes.

Bad fat

Both saturated fats and trans fats are solid at room temperature. Think of butter, dalda and ghee. But bad fats abound in some liquids, too, including whole milk, cream, and coconut oil. These fats drive up your total cholesterol.

Saturated fats. There are about 24 different saturated fats. Not all of them are equally bad for your health. The saturated fat found in butter, whole milk, cheese, and other dairy products increases LDL levels the most. India is a milk nation — we love our milk, ghee, milk based deserts, dahi and paneer. Keep your milk products lower in fat. Some vegetable oils, such as palm oil and coconut oil, also contain saturated fat.

Trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils). These fats occur naturally in meat, but their main dietary source is packaged baked products such as biscuits, cakes, breads, and fried snacks, as well as fast foods and some dairy products. Trans fats were artificially created in the laboratory to provide cheap alternatives to butter. Solidifying vegetable oil by heating it in the presence of hydrogen makes the structure of polyunsaturated fat becomes more like saturated fat. When you see “partially hydrogenated oil” or “hydrogenated oil” on a nutrition label then you know that there are trans fats in the product.

Trans fats are worse for you than saturated fats. Not only do they increase your LDL cholesterol, but they also reduce your beneficial HDL cholesterol. There is no safe level of trans fats.

Good Fat

Good fats are liquid and never solid and come mainly from vegetable and fish products. There are two basic categories:

Polyunsaturated fats. When you pour liquid cooking oil in a pan, there’s a good chance you’re using polyunsaturated fat. Your body does not produce polyunsaturated fats but they are required for normal body functions and you need to get them from food. These fats help build cell membranes, they are vital to blood clotting, muscle contraction and relaxation, and inflammation. Omega-3 and Omega-6 are both polyunsaturated fats. Omega-3s come mainly from fish, but also from flaxseeds, walnuts, canola oil, and unhydrogenated soybean oil. Omega-6 fatty acids also lower the risk for heart disease.

Monounsaturated fats. These fats should be used as much as possible to replace the bad fats. Good sources of monounsaturated fats are olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, flaxseeds, and most nuts.

Take away:  “Good fats” are an integral part of heart-healthy diets, especially when they replace saturated and trans fats in our diets.

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