For many years, we believed that eating foods high in cholesterol & saturated fat increases the blood levels of cholesterol which in turn can spell trouble for the heart. So, butter, ghee, coconut oil, egg yolk (yellow), red meat, cheese, and other foods that contained either cholesterol or saturated fat were deleted from the shopping lists of many homes.
Then came studies that showed egg yolk didn’t raise blood cholesterol levels, in spite of containing high amounts of cholesterol. Of late, there’s a lot of talk on whether saturated fats raise blood cholesterol or not. Many studies are indicating that ghee, coconut oil and other sources of saturated fats are not as harmful as thought earlier. Trans fats and refined carbohydrates (sugar, maida, white bread and white rice) are the ones to watch out for.
Cholesterol is not a bad thing. It is an essential item and has many functions in the body. So, if you have any fear about cholesterol, please remove it from your minds.
Two days ago, I was listening to a talk by a very senior Swedish professor who basically trashed the information that cholesterol from foods and saturated fats can be harmful. He said that refined carbohydrates are the culprits causing damage to our health. He felt sad that many Indians have stopped using ghee, coconut and coconut oil. He encouraged the use of these foods. He also said that we use too much sunflower oil and should reduce it’s use. Increase protein intake through foods, include lots of vegetables and fruits, leave refined carbohydrates, was the advice given.
I agree with most of the points given by the professor. But we need to be careful of the quantity of fats that we use. Also whole grains like brown rice, atta, millets, are an important part of our meals.
Many packaged foods carry ‘no trans fats’ on their label. This indicates that trans fats are not good for us.
Trans fats (trans fatty acids is the real term) are formed when vegetable oils undergo hydrogenation to make them solid at room temperature. The most common examples of trans fats is vanaspati and margarine. This type of fat is used in baking (biscuits, cookies, cakes, etc), in ready-to-eat foods (chiwdas, mixtures, bhujias, namkeens, chips, etc), and sometimes even in homes and restaurants for deep frying. The reason for its widespread use is because vanaspati is cheaper than pure ghee or butter, and it’s melting point is higher than some oils. Secondly, vanaspati and margarine do not contain cholesterol because they are made from vegetable oils. So far so good.
But the downside of using hydrogenated fats is that it’s the worst type of fat for health. Trans fats not only increase the ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body, they also decrease the ‘good’ cholesterol. Heart disease risk increases much more from trans fats than when you consume saturated fat from butter!
So it’s best to stay away from all those ready-made munchies and also to read labels carefully when you buy packaged foods. While eating out do not hesitate to ask the cook what type of fat he uses for cooking.