What to eat: A fatty problem

Sushil Dhital


Eat less fat and low-cholesterol diet; consume more fruits, vegetables and grains; maintain a healthy weight. Most of us have heard this simple recommendation so often. Fats are indispensable nutrients of the body. Their significance for healthy living can never be underestimated.

Fats are a concentrated source of energy yielding more than twice the energy supplied by carbohydrates and proteins. Fats provide the essential fatty acids, which are not made by the body and must be obtained from food. Essential fatty acids are required for the growth and development of infants. They are also more important for healthy skin and hair. They help in the control of blood pressure, inflammation, and proper hormonal functions. They also help in the absorption, storage and transport of the fat-soluble vitamins — A, D, E, and K. Fats are deposited in tissue beneath the skin called adipose tissue. This helps maintain body temperature. Apart from the nutritional point of view, they provide flavour and texture to food.

In a healthy person, about 25-30 per cent of daily calorie requirement must be supplied from fat. This is equivalent to a requirement of 50 to 60 gram of fat per day. Among this, at least 15 gram of fat should be of plant origin (except coconut and palm oil) to meet the essential fatty acid requirement of body.

Food fat can be classified as saturated and unsaturated fat. Saturated fats are generally solid at room temperature and unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Apart from this two, other forms of fats exist. They are trans fat and omega fats. Saturated fats are mainly of animal origin. They are found in meat, seafood, whole-milk dairy products (cheese, milk, and ice cream butter, ghee), poultry skin, and egg yolks. Some plant foods are also high in saturated fats, including coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil. Regardless of high nutritional value of milk, egg, meat: their consumption should be limited, as the saturated fats increases blood cholesterol, leading to heart problems.

Unsaturated fats are found in products derived from plant sources such as vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, etc. Sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil and mustard oil are common in our daily diet. They are regarded as good fats. They are low in cholesterol and provide essential fatty acids for health. Trans fat are unsaturated fat produced during hardening of vegetable oil to make Vanasphati ghee or Margarine. These have higher keeping quality, compared to that of vegetable oil from which they are made. Deep frying of vegetable oil also produces trans fats. Trans fats are often harmful. They increase blood cholesterol and have adverse effect on the heart. Commercially prepared baked goods and fried food like French fries and Onion rings generally contain huge quantity of trans fat in them. Omega fats are unsaturated fats which are rich in fatty acids, essential for functioning of the brain and eye. Omega fats are good for growth and development. Fish, in particular, is abundant in Omega fats.Excess fat is deposited on our body, making us obese and increasing heart risk. Whole grain breads (roti) are low in fat and are also high in fibre and carbohydrates. Rich bakery foods such as doughnuts, sweet rolls, muffins and cakes which contains saturated and trans fat should be avoided. Similarly, fried snacks such as potato chips, onion chips or pakauda should be limited. Leaner meats, fish and chicken breasts contain less fat. Skimmed milk and

buttermilk (mohi) contain less fat. Try low-fat natural or cheddar cheeses and plain non-fat yoghurt is better than creamy yoghurt.Vegetable momos, hot dogs, burger and nuggets are low-fat, cholesterol-free alternatives to meat. Similarly Soya Tofu could be used as an alternative to cottage cheese (paneer).

Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat, and also add flavour and variety to our diet. They also contain fibre, vitamins and minerals most essential for good health. Dry beans, peas and lentils are rich in fat and also offer protein and fibre without any risk of cholesterol. Fresh fish is better than meat. Consuming of high fat foods occasionally, in lesser quantity has no such adverse affect on our health as long as it is not our daily diet.