One food group that is considered a ‘Villain’ by most people most of the times and some people all of the time is ‘Fats and Oils’! This villain’s role is cut short all the time during cooking and I have heard they (fats and oils!) hate the word ‘ fat free foods’ and worst when they hear people say ‘No fat foods’!!! 🙂
Joke apart, the point here is, are fats and oils that bad? Then, why are they included in the Food pyramid? Why it is not eliminated?!
Fats and oils are an essential food group. Apart from improving the palatability and satiety value of foods, they also act as cushion and protect vital organs of the body. They do have an important role to play in conserving body heat. And most importantly vitamins like A, D, E and K need fats for their digestion and absorption in the body, as they are fat soluble vitamins. Hence, it is clear that fats have a major role to play in the human body.
Now, hoping that the villain has tried to make some place in your heart, let me now tell you what are ‘fat free foods’ or ‘no fat foods’?!
All food groups like Cereals, pulses, green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, roots and tubers etc etc that we use on a daily basis (and you get to see on a colorful Food pyramid chart!) provide us with Energy and nutrients like carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. These food groups provide nutrients in varying amounts, some more and some less. For eg: Cereals are a source of carbohydrates and Pulses are a source of protein. This does not mean that cereals do not contain protein, they do have protein in them but, carbohydrate is the dominating nutrient in cereals and the amount of protein found is less when compared to proteins found in pulses, chicken or meat. Looks like I forgot the question! I was supposed to talk about Fats and the script has been changed to highlight facts on carbohydrates and protein! But then, I would say…You have the answer already!! Whether or not you are including visible fat in your diet, you are getting it through various foods in the form of invisible fat (though in small amounts) as they are inherently present. Hence, a food item cannot be considered ‘no fat food’ or ‘fat free food’ (Unless you are consuming only sugar! Because sugar has no fat, it provides approximately 99g/100g of carbohydrate and 387 kcal/100 g!)
Sources of Fats are Visible fats (vegetable oil, ghee, butter, lard, margarine, cream) and Invisible fats (milk, oil seeds, nuts, mutton, eggs, liver). You can always monitor the amount of visible fats that you add to food i.e., the amount of oil you add while cooking food, or the amount of butter on your toast or ghee to your rice and rasam! And also by avoiding, the invisible fat dominant foods like egg yolk, certain meat products, avocados to name few. ‘Low fat diet’ can be carefully planned when these basic things are kept in mind. This means you can always plan a ‘’Low fat diet’ but not ‘No fat diet’!
Fats are very essential during the growth periods and hence everybody may not need a ‘Low fat diet’! Changing times and changes in lifestyle has given way to various Non- communicable diseases that are affecting normal life and excess fat in diet has a role to play in various diseases and disorders like Cardio vascular diseases, overweight/ obesity to name a few. Total fat (Visible plus invisible fat) included in the diet is carefully planned by a Nutritionist depending on the condition and requirement of a client/Patient and the modifications are made accordingly. In the diets of adults in India, about 20 percent energy may be derived from fats. Invisible fat furnishes about 9 percent energy and visible fat 10 percent. This would come to 10-20 grams of fat per day depending upon the levels of calories consumed.
When fats are avoided in the diet without careful planning, the functions that fats play in our body are affected. Teenagers and health conscious individuals who take pride in eliminating fats and oils from diet have to give it a second thought! Excessive exercise, high fiber, low fat intake lead to low circulating estrogen levels, irregular menses and low bone mass. Predisposition to osteoporosis is in part at least the result of dietary deficiency of various important nutrients and exercise patterns during developmental years.
Next time you are thinking about fat, don’t consider it a villain. Let the goodness of fat get some credit! Too much of anything is harmful. Fat is not fattening!! By making wise choices, let us allow fat to play the role of a hero and not over use it and prove it a villain! 🙂