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A friend of mine sent me an email about an article published by a US writer about how 4 foods accelerate aging. The 4 foods named in this article are wheat, corn, sugar and vegetable oils (like soybean, canola, etc). How factual is this information?
Wheat and corn do not accelerate aging, for sure. On the contrary, they provide us with nutrients that are essential for good health. Although gluten-free foods are becoming a rage in the West, the only persons who need to avoid wheat are those who are allergic or intolerant to wheat and its products. Perhaps gluten can be a topic for another discussion!
Sugar and oils accelerate aging only if taken in large quantities and / or replace healthy foods. Sugar consumption has gone up in urban India by large amounts. Sugar robs the body of some important nutrients which can be replaced only by eating healthy foods. In that sense, sugar can be a villain. Also, extra oil intake (especially the high PUFA ones) can tilt the fatty acid balance in the body and accelerate free radical damage. In that sense, some of the vegetable oils can be seen as villains.
The bottom line is reduce sugar and fat consumption, and there’s no need to avoid wheat and corn if you are not allergic to them.
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.