Knowing the Right Oil Counts

Oil Advantages

Dreaming of the ghee laden aloo paranthas or a large chunk of butter onto your bhaji! The popular commercial beckons you to indulge in fried puris and samosas because the oil in question is ‘cholesterol free’ and ‘rich in vitamins’.

While newer technologies have provided us more and more healthy and nutritious choice of oils, unfortunately the total quantity we need to consume in a day has not changed. Fats supply the essential fatty acids required for important biological functions and enhance absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins.But, fat is the most calorically dense nutrient with every 1gm providing 9kcal. This means that all those wanting to cut down on their total calorie intake need to regulate the quantity and improve the quality of fat consumed.

Where do we get our oils and fat from?

Visible sources:

  • Plant seeds: Sunflower, safflower (kardi), soyabean, mustard (rai), canola
  • Vegetables: Corn, palm, olive
  • Other: Rice bran

Invisible sources:

  • Milk and milk products: Full fat milk, cream, cheese, butter, ghee, margarine
  • Animal products: Cod liver (fish), red meat, egg yolk
  • Nuts: Coconut, almond, peanut, walnut, til.

Fats can be classified based on the predominant fatty acids present. Most oils contain a combination of these fatty acids in different ratios.

  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA): These fatty acids have two main fractions – Omega 6 and Omega 3. Omega 6 fatty acids decrease both LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterol whereas omega 3 fatty acids decrease LDL cholesterol and increases HDL cholesterol levels.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids have several beneficial effects in terms of improving memory, clearing blockages in the heart and reducing inflammation. Our regular Indian dietary practices fulfill our needs of omega 6 but omega 3 fatty acids are often lacking in the diet. Especially vegetarians have very poor intake of omega 3 fatty acids. Sources of omega 6 are sunflower oil, safflower oil and corn oil. sources of omega 3 are fish oil, rice bran oil, mustard seed oil, til oil, walnuts and flaxseeds.
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA): It is promoted as the best fatty acid, which should constitute maximum part of the total fat intake because it lowers LDL cholesterol, greatly reduces risk of heart diseases and also helps in controlling weight. Sources are olive oil, and groundnut oil.
  • Saturated fatty acids (SFA): SFA’s increase both LDL and HDL cholesterol and are directly related to higher risk of developing heart disease. Sources are ghee, butter, margarine, cream, bakery products, cheese, etc.

How to choose oils?

One type of oil may not provide all the fatty acids in the desired ratio. Particular oil may be rich in one fatty acid and lacking in another. There are two ways to make sure we get the best combination of fatty acids

  • Use oil in rotation: Keep changing oils every month. For example – If you have bought rice bran oil for a month, then next month you can purchase groundnut oil, and so on.
  • Use blends: Mix two or more oils at home or choose from the blended oils available in the market such as rice bran oil with soyabean oil, safflower with rice bran oil, sunflower with rice bran oil, and so on. At home level, blending is possible by using different oils for cooking specific food items. Example – cooking pasta in olive oil, lady finger in mustard seed oil.

How much fat do we require?

Our requirement of visible fat including oil, ghee and butter is 3tsp or 15g/day. This turns out to be 450ml/person/month. For a family of four, we require only 2L of fat in a month. Requirement of invisible fat is 30-35g/day, which can be acquired from walnuts (3-5 per day), almonds (handful a day), flaxseeds (alshi 3 teaspoons/day), fatty fish (salmon, mackerel 30-35g/ 2-3 times a week) and low fat milk and milk products.

Be an aware consumer

  • Often there are advertisements showing that the oil is cholesterol free. It is important to know that plant seeds, nuts or vegetables do not contain cholesterol hence all the oils made from these are naturally having zero cholesterol. Cholesterol is present in animal sources of fat such as milk, butter, red meat, egg yolk, etc.
  • Olive oil is expensive and is unstable at high temperatures. Hence it is mainly used in salad dressings or for tossing vegetables for pastas. Similarly, flaxseed oil can be used only for cold salads.
  • Canola oil provides almost the ideal ratio of PUFA, MUFA and SFA but is not easily available in India.