Going Fat-Free? Try Fat-Smart Instead! Here Are Four Ways to Do It
Our brain is about 60% fat and the fats we eat influence the ability of our cell membranes and brain to function.
No, not all fats are bad. Our brain is about 60 percent fat and the fats we eat strongly influence the ability of our cell membranes and brain to function. They are necessary for proper hormone production, which in turn regulates many processes in the body, such as our ability to build and maintain muscle tissue. Fat lubricates our joints, helps absorb and use fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K, is essential for immunity, reproduction and also helps protect organs.
Finally, cutting down fat does not help with weight loss. It delivers a feeling of satiety by keeping our blood sugar levels stable for longer and preventing excess hunger and cravings.
With fat-free meals, on the other hand, we usually end up eating and eating, and consume excess calories without realizing.
Low fat diets are also linked to depression. So instead of banning fat, just focus on scoring good fats!
Consume Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s)
Our bodies cannot make them indigenously, like many vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients. So we must get them from the foods we eat. These help us achieve healthy skin and hair, keep our joints happy, prevent hormonal imbalances, ensure that our metabolism doesn’t dip (if that happens you put on weight), keep heart disease and stroke away and cholesterol levels down. Yes, they are that important! Include, eggs, fish and other sea foods, ghee, flaxseeds, walnuts and other nuts, nut butters, seeds and coconut.
Cholesterol is a pretty hot topic. You can be at a party and people are talking about their levels. But the fact is that food cholesterol is not your enemy and dietary fats don’t affect cholesterol levels that much. In fact, people on high carbohydrate diets store excess carbohydrates as fat, and a good fat like olive oil, or some of the oils from nuts and seeds can actually help lower our cholesterol levels. Exercise too can help increase good cholesterol HDL and decrease bad cholesterol LDL (Low Density Lip-Proteins).
Choose Oils Carefully
You may have noticed an ever-expanding choice of oils at your local grocery store over the past few years. Each of these oils has its place in the kitchen and serves a specific function. Keep these factors in mind when choosing them:
- No oil is completely made of one fat; they all are a combination of the three kinds of fats (MUFA, PUFA and SF) in different percentages, based on the nut, seed or fruit from which the oil is derived, so it makes sense to keep rotating them.
- Consider their smoke points (the temperature at which volatile compounds emerge and a bluish smoke becomes clearly visible from the oil). Heating oil past its smoke point leads to a loss of flavor, its nutritional value and also turns it into a trans fat laden heart disease machine. Oils that can take high temperatures make good all-purpose cooking oils. Choose from canola, sunflower and peanut for high-heat uses such as searing and frying. Medium-high heat oils are good for baking, sautéing and stir-frying; try safflower or sunflower oil. For sauces, lower-heat baking and pressure cooking, medium-high heat oils are best. Good choices are olive oil, corn oil, and walnut oil. Be wary of oils refined through chemical processes, which make them rancid and toxic if used at higher smoke points.
- There are some oils that should never be heated. These can be used in dips and dressings, or added to a dish after it has been removed from heat. For example, add walnut oil, with its nutty flavor, or extra virgin olive oil to your salad, or add sesame oil to your stir-fry after its done cooking to add extra flavor. These oils are a good way to incorporate essential fatty acids into our diet.
- A teaspoon or two of cold-pressed oils obtained from mustard and peanut, and olive and sunflower oil can also go a long way to complete your good fat requirement. These are obtained by pressing and grinding the fruit or seed naturally. Since the temperature does’t rise too high, they are far healthier than refined ones (where the extraction process breaks down the natural composition of oils).
Say No to Fat-Free
Opting for fat free versions of foods (fat free cookies, low fat cakes, fat free mayonnaise etc) is a really bad idea, as these usually have added sugars to make them tastier — leaving you worse off. Reach out for the full-fat options, in moderation. Your waistline, heart, and taste buds will all thank you!
(Kavita is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa).)
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