Read the nutrition facts /food labels carefully: avoid those that have ‘hydrogenated oils’, ‘partially hydrogenated oils’ or ‘shortenings’ in the ingredients list
FATS – Since decades this four-letter word has been frightening us. We consider fats as the root cause of all Non-communicable diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancers. However, all fats aren’t bad!
Fats support our body as an important nutrient and is required for numerous functions. Not only are they a major source of energy but they also help in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) and minerals. Fats are involved in building cell membranes and sheaths surrounding nerves; are required for blood clotting during bleeding, and even for smooth muscle movements. Instead of completely eliminating them from your diet, learn to wisely choose between the good and bad.
Structurally, all fats are made up of carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen atoms in a chain. However, the length and shape of the carbon chain and the number of hydrogen atoms connected to the carbon atoms determines the type of fat (Saturated, Unsaturated and Trans fats). All of these are present in large or small amounts in plant and animal foods; the unsaturated type (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) is considered healthy for the heart, whereas Trans fats are labelled as Bad Fats.
Let us focus on the Bad fats today!
There are two types of trans fats found in foods. Naturally-occurring fats are present in small quantities in animal foods (milk and meat products). Artificial trans fats (or trans fatty acids) are created by a chemical process in the industry where hydrogen is added to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.Food manufacturers use these hydrogenated oils/vanaspati to extend shelf life, add texture, taste and increase stability.
You can find them in:
• Fats And Oils: Vanaspati, Bakery Shortenings and Margarine
• Baked Foods: Biscuits, Puff, Cakes, Pastries, Cookies, Cream Rolls
• Fried Snacks: Puri, Pakodas, Namkeens, Jalebis, Gulab Jamuns, Boondi Laddus
• Processed And Packaged Foods: Meat Pies and Sausage Rolls
• Reheated / Reused Oils: Same oil is repeatedly used for frying
Evidence suggests that consumption of Trans fat raises LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lowers HDL (“good”) cholesterol, causing the arteries to clog and increasing the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.They are also known to hinder the insulin response increasing risk of diabetes.This makes it mandatory to eliminate trans fats from our food.
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Here are a few pointers to reduce Trans fats from your foods:
• Read the Nutrition Facts / Food labels carefully: Look for ‘hydrogenated oils’, ‘partially hydrogenated oils’ or ‘shortenings’ in the ingredients list and avoid buying those products. Some food packets might claim no trans fats have been added, however the ingredient list may still have partially hydrogenated oil as one of the ingredients. Check both the label as well as the list.
• Use vegetable oils (rich in poly and mono unsaturated fats) for cooking: canola, safflower, sunflower, soyabean or olive oil. These are heart friendly oils.
• Limit the use of processed and packaged foods: packaged foods may contain trans fats, as partially hydrogenated oils are used while baking or frying them to increase the shelf life of foods. Do not be dependent on these foods and prepare snacks at home.
• Opt for healthy snacksthat are naturally free of trans fats:Mixed Nuts, Sprouts, Salads, Fruits, Yogurt.
• Do not repeatedly reheat oil or reuse the same oil for frying.
• Avoid using ‘vanaspati’ for cooking/frying.
• Eat healthy balanced meals with whole grains, pulses, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish and nuts. Limit red meat, sugary foods and beverages.
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Currently, FSSAI Regulations limit the trans fats content to not more than 5% of the total fats in various vegetable fats, vanapati and bakery shortenings and industrial margarine. However, it aims to completely eliminate Industrially produced trans fats from the food supply chain In India by 2022, a year ahead of the global target of 2023 (by the WHO), thus making India Trans Fats free in its 75th year of Independence.
Let us also join hands, demand for trans fat free foods and eat healthy balanced food to make India Fit.
(The author is a nutrition expert with Arogya World's MyThali program)