In the last two blogs I spoke about role of carbs and proteins in diabetes. The third macronutrient is fat. About a decade or so ago, people started developing a ‘fat-phobia’ – it became the ‘BAD’ nutrient and started moving to so called ‘zero fat diets’.
Fat is an important component of a healthy diet. It contains essential fatty acids which are vital for nerve function, and is necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins
( A, D, E, and K). It provides flavour and tenderness to food and gives satiety. This may take some explaining and counselling to change mind sets.
Unlike carbohydrates, which are digested fairly quickly, fat takes a longer time thus increasing the blood sugar 4 to 6 hours later. Thus blood glucose look well in range (of the goal) two hours after a high fat meal and shoots up significantly 5 hours later. This is a problem for insulin users. Both the amount and type of fat consumed impacts health.
The good fats are generally liquid at room temperature and are mainly found in plant-derived foods. There are two types:
Monounsaturated fats (MUFA): found in high amounts in olive oil, canola oil, avocados, and nuts. These are considered the healthiest of all the fats. These fats can withstand very high temperatures and do not turn ugly fast while cooking.
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA): include the omega 6 and omega 3 essential fatty acids. It maybe advisable to cut down on the omega 6s found in safflower, sunflower, corn oil and foods made with these oils (like margarine, mayonnaise, and salad dressings).
Omega 3s found in fatty fish (like salmon, mackerel, and tuna), walnuts, flaxseeds, tofu and other soybean products maybe helpful.
The bad fats: are generally solid at room temperature and are mainly found in animal products, like butter, meat, whole milk, and cheese. However, some vegetable oils (coconut, palm, and palm kernel oil) are also high in saturated fat. These fats should be limited because they raise blood cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol: a fat-like substance found in whole dairy products, liver, egg yolks, and shellfish, red meats etc.
The ugly fat: Trans fats are made during hydrogenation, a process that makes unsaturated liquid vegetable oils more solid, saturated, and shelf-stable. Trans fats are found in margarine, vegetable shortening, and many processed foods which list “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” as an ingredient. These ugly fats affect the cholesterol levels the most.
And then there is the invisible fat in food (that cannot be easily seen and is impossible to separate from food, such as butter that has been baked into a cake or the natural oils found in nuts). A visible fat such as olive oil may be absorbed during cooking and become invisible
Even though nuts high in MUFA are good,one still needs to be careful! 6 almonds or 4 pecan halves have the same number of calories as 1 teaspoon of oil or butter.
Ideal fat consumption would be 4-5 teaspoon of it a day.
How to keep a check on that?
Sticking to ½ liter (500 ml) of cooking oil per person per month.
For a family of four, no more than two litres of cooking oil a month is ideal.
1 teaspoon Oil = 1 tsp butter / peanut butter or 6 pieces of almond or 4 half pecans or 6 pistachios = 5 grams fat
Read food labels of fat content in packaged products
So what’s the right medium of cooking and how to achieve the above mentioned goal of 4-5 tsp a day?
Every cooking oil brand claims to have ‘no cholesterol’. That’s a sham – no plant product has cholesterol so vegetable cooking oils are cholesterol free to begin with.
Choose smart - using the best extra virgin olive oil for deep frying is sheer waste as all healthy fatty acids get destroyed in the process. Same olive oil does great things for the heart when used as dressing in your salad.
Olive oil, groundnut oil, rice bran oil, mustard oil, canola oil and soybean oil are the best 5 oils available in the market. Rotate these on a monthly basis to get maximum benefits.
Here is a ready reckoner to help meet your fat recommendations -
Upcoming Blog- “Eating out, guilt free”
Author Pariksha Rao is based in Bengaluru, India. She is a clinical nutritionist, IDF certified diabetes educator, sports nutritionist and a lactation expert, with more than a decade of experience across pharmaceuticals, hospitals and research sectors. Having trained over a 1000 paramedics on personalised patient/ consumer care and counselling, Pariksha believes counselling is a holistic approach to achieve long term behaviour modification by setting mutual, achievable, measurable and realistic short term goals.