Oils the Misunderstood Nutrient
Your sister suddenly drops in on a casual visit with her 5 year old son. You decide to give the adorable scamp a little treat. So you open the freezer to reach out for that packet of uncooked herbs and potatoes, and quickly deep fry a generous portion. As you serve the smoking hot savouries with some spicy tomato sauce, you watch your nephew’s eyes beam with delight. As he hastily chomps on the fourth wedge of potato unabashed by your presence, your sister looks at him disapprovingly. “Don’t worry. It’s all fried in rice bran oil. And served with love”, you jovially reassure her. “But oil is oil at the end of the day. It’s going to grease the arteries. Not good for the heart of someone you love”, she quips disconcertedly.
The myth surrounding our friendly cooking oil is not just anecdotal. The reputation of this ‘refined’ native of our kitchens is stained with dogmas and half-truths. So before we look down upon it with unfounded beliefs, let’s dig a little deeper inside and discover something to look up to.
Oil is a nutrient that is considered to affect ones healthy living. But its not the truth, Oils or Fats can be Healthy and Unhealthy Fats/ Oils. Oils of certain seeds, and animal plant matter contain essential fatty acids that our bodies require for optimal functioning. These oils may be further categorized into saturated fats and non-saturated fats. Let’s have a more insightful look at these.
Fats in which every chain link has a hydrogen atom are known as Saturated fats. Found in meat, poultry, butter, cream, ghee and other and full fat dairy products, as well as in palm and coconut oil, saturated fats are usually hard at room temperature due to their chemical structure. Termed as ‘bad fats’ for a long time, saturated fats have been believed to have an ill effect on one’s heart. However, a review of 72 studies in the year 2014, shed more positive light on these fats, by showing no connection between them and heart diseases. While saturated fats are found in meats, whole-fat dairy products and baked foods, ghee would be the safest and healthiest among all of these. Loaded with CLA and other amino acids, ghee is also called the miracle worker. It has a unique type of saturated fat known as the short-chain-fatty acid, the kind that is needed to burn stubborn fat in the body. Ghee also helps in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins – A, D, E and K, that are not just antioxidants that help keep us in the pink of health, but are also rich in anti-ageing properties.
When the chain links in fats do not have a hydrogen atom and have a double-bonded carbon, they become Unsaturated Fats. These can be Monounsaturated Fats (MUFA) or Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFA) depending upon the number of double bonds in their molecular structure. PUFAs are further divided into Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, both of which our body is unable to produce, and a lack of which can lead to a number of deficiency symptoms including depression, anxiety, mood swings, inability to concentrate and difficulty in sleeping. But worry not, just switch over to any of these healthy oils mentioned below and march your way towards a healthier life.
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA)
Oils like avocado, canola, olive, peanut, safflower, sesame and sunflower.
Consuming oils with MUFA helps in the following ways:
- Reducing bad cholesterol, also known as LDL, thus keeping your heart healthy
- Weight loss
- Reducing belly fat
- Lowers the risk of breast cancer
- Easing pain caused due to rheumatoid arthritis
n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) aka Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Oils like flaxseed, Canola, Walnut, Wheat germ, Soybean
Consuming oils with Omega 3 fatty acids helps in the following ways:
- Leads to a sharper, more alert mind
- Helps in cardiovascular health
- Lowers the risk of breast, colon and ovarian cancer
- Helps counter depression
- Beneficial for children with bronchial asthma
n-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) aka Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Oils like corn, cottonseed, flax, hemp, peanut, rice bran, safflower, sesame, soybean, sunflower, wheat germ and grape seed.
Consuming oils with Omega 6 fatty acids helps control:
- Skin disorders like eczema and dermatitis
- PMS symptoms like breast swelling, mood swings and bloating
To sum it up, our bodies are like machines, which need their daily dose of oil for smooth functioning. So shop wisely for healthy oils to further lead a Healthy Living. The next time while choosing namkeens, opt for the ones fried in these ‘friendly’ oils, to help gift yourself a Healthy Living, because in the end, oils well that ends well!