Feb 21, 2009

Oil is Well

This key food protects your heart, skin and waistline. Here’s how to get the right kind and amount.Good fats and the new respect for them is changing attitudes. Fats are accepted as an essential component of a healthy diet. Most nutrition studies show that too little fat in the diet is unhealthy, even dangerous. Okay, we are not telling you to guzzle on oil. Our mission is to arm you with the right information on what to use, how much to use and how to use it, to give this misunderstood food its due respect and you the health benefits.
Why we need healthy oilsLike we said fats (both fats and oils belong to a group of substances called lipids, and have a common molecular structure with the same benefits or disadvantages. The only difference is that fats are solid at room temperature and oils are liquid) and are no longer labelled a health villain.Heart health Some amount of the right fat is actually good for your heart. Consuming less than 20% of your calories from fats and oils may actually increase your risk of heart disease. That’s because a deficit can lower your absorption of fat-soluble Vitamin E (a powerful anti-oxidant), keep 'good' HDL cholesterol from rising and increase triglycerides.Metabolism Too little fat can kill appetite, cause malnutrition and also play havoc with the blood sugar levels, which can lead to strokes and blackouts. Other enzymes and hormones generated by fat cells are known to provide safety and satisfaction after a meal. Fats carry with it dissolved compounds that give the food aroma and flavour No wonder fat-rich food is so palatable!Nutrition Studies also show that some anti-oxidants and phytochemicals such as lycopene are absorbed 10 times more effectively when vegetables are paired with oil.Cell health Fats are an integral part of the cell membrane. They protect the cells and help them work efficiently, particularly the nerve cells. The sheath of fat around nerves helps in the smooth transmission of electric messages.Lubrication Fats work as lubricants and provide the necessary smoothness between joints. This reduces the wear and tear of joints caused by constant rubbing against each other. Oils also maintain the elasticity of the skin cells and can delay the onset of wrinkles.
Why too much is bad newsOverloading is avoidable. Here are the downsides.Obesity A tablespoon of oil gives around 120 calories. Add to it calories from other ingredients, and you’ve gone through the roof.Heart risk One of the causative factors in heart disease (plaque/atherosclerosis) is the accumulation of lipids and cholesterol in the matrix around the cells and the inner lining of blood vessels of the heart from unhealthy fats.Diabetes Oils combined with an unhealthy lifestyle can slow down the metabolic process. Moreover, certain oils are high in n6 (a part of the Omega-6 fatty acids, commonly found in fatty foods), that can cause insulin resistance and interfere with the health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids (Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy). The bottom line on oilClearly, there’s the good and there’s the bad. Therefore, it’s best to tread cautiously and strike a balance. The upper limit of fat in the diet should not exceed 25-30% of your calories. That is to say that for a woman of moderate lifestyle with 2200 calories, the fat intake should be limited to 60g per day. But these limits or figures include both hidden sources of fat (from nuts, seeds, fruits, meat, fish and other food items) and visible ones (oil, butter, ghee). Given that it is difficult to calculate the invisible fat sources in your diet, stick to the lower limit of visible fat sources as a rule. Experts seals it at 20g or 4-6 teaspoons per day only (but remember, these figures can vary depending on your medical history). When possible, eat healthy, natural food sources of good fats such as nuts, seeds, dry fruits and fish in addition to the best oils.
Understanding fat typesThis primer will help you understand heroes and villians amongst fats.
* Saturated fats These have no double bonds between the carbon atoms. They are not popular with health enthusiasts, as several studies and clinical trials show, they are a major cause of cardio-vascular diseases. WHO confirms that 'saturated fatty acids raise total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol'. Sources: butter, ghee, fullcream milk and meat.* Unsaturated fats These have one (mono-unsaturated fatty acids or MUFA) or more (poly un-saturated fatty acids or PUFA) double bonds between the carbon atoms. Sources: fish, wholegrains, nuts and olive oil.* Trans fats They are man-made, hydrogenated fats and are the real culprits that should be kept out totally. They can cause serious damage to health including CVD, infertility and obesity, amongst others.Sources: Banaspati and margarine. Most fried foods, packaged cookies and snacks are fried in hydrogenated fats.Get the best benefits: experts recommend* A mix of oil is better. Instead of making a single oil your staple, use a mix. If you generally use mustard, use olive for salads and groundnut for your veggies. You can pick them by their smoking points and cooking note (read more in 'Oils for you')* Throw away oils that have become rancid. Rancid oils can be toxic. Identify rancid oil from touch: it is thicker than it should be and is also sticky compared to the slippery feel of normal oils.* Heat your oil to their suggested smoking points. If smoked beyond their cooking point, the bonds between the atoms in the oil can undergo changes and there is a loss of nutrients such as Omega fats from it.* Avoid using and re-using oils. They can become carcinogenic. This means bidding farewell to those potato and banana chips from your hot chips shop and bread pakoras and bhajjias from around the corner.
Oils For You A ready-to-use guide to popular oils. Pick those with the lowest sat fat content and make sure they match your cooking style.Old favourites* CoconutThe good Anti-bacterial.The bad Extremely high in sat fats.Bottom line In spite of its high sat fat content, coconut oil does not harm the heart.Best bet: go easy on it.Cooking note High smoking point, at 230 C. Use for frying
* MustardThe good Good balance of MUFA and PUFA. Recommended for massages.The bad Has a high content of erucic acid which can be toxic.Bottom line Considered safe by most, but supplement your diet with other oils too.Cooking note High smoking point. Blends well with Indian food.Heat the oil before frying to reduce the pungent flavour.* SunflowerThe good Low in sat fat. Has a good dose of Vitamin E.The bad n6 fatty acids content high.Bottom line Blend it with n3-rich oils (such as groundnut oil) for a healthy mix.Cooking note Does not solidify on cooling, ideal for cold salads.* GroundnutThe good A fine ratio of MUFA, PUFA.The bad Low in n6 fatty acids.Bottom line Considered generally safe.Cooking note High smoking point. Rich flavour makes it good for stir-fries.* SesameThe good More stable than most oils. It has a high smoking point and little chance of turning rancid.The bad Low in n3. Bottom line Though low in n3, the MUFA content balances it out.Cooking note It has a very strong flavour. Add to dishes just before serving or grilling.* OliveThe good High in MUFA. Has anti-oxidants and polyphenols that are good for the heart.The bad Low-smoking point.Bottom line Include it in your diet by using a mix of oils for flavour and taste.Cooking note Doesn't go well with Indian dishes. Keep for stir-fries, pastas or salads. Extra-virgin has a very low cooking point and should strictly be used for salads.* SoyabeanThe good Low in sat fat. Contains significant amounts of Omega-3.The bad Some people can be allergic to it. Turns rancid soon.Bottom line Works ideally in a blend.Cooking note Use for frying and sauteing
New kids on the block CanolaThe good Very low in sat fat. A good source of ALA.The bad Mostly oil extracted from genetically modified crops.Bottom line If you are not on an organic crusade, try this one out.Cooking note Very high smoking point, 460° C. Great for Indian cooking.
Cut caloriesIf you’re not careful, you can add hundreds, even thousands of calories to your diet every day.* Fill a mister (available at most kitchen stores) with the oil and mist veggies and fish instead of dousing or brushing them * Oil the vegetables and not the pan when cooking. It's a good way to minimise oil intake * Bake and saute foods as far as possible. Do not deep fry. For baked samosas, brush the samosas with oil and then bake them in an oven * Measure with a teaspoon You may think you use oil sparingly, but this is the only way to know for sure * Say no to fried stuff, completely, those pakoras will give you 500 Kcal whereas 1 cup pistas will give you only 100 calories, better nutrition and more satiety. So make the right choices and stick to healthy foods and snacks * Exercise, exercise and exercise Nothing offsets oil’s disadvantages better than burning out your calories.

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