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‘Lipid’ is a general term to used to describe substances that usually cannot be dissolved in water but will dissolve in an organic solvent. Fats, oils, waxes, certain sterols, and esters all fall into this category. Natural fats are derived from plant or animal sources are composed of three fatty acid molecules and one molecule of gycerol (‘Triglyceride). The type of fat depends on the fatty acids used for the composition. Any fat would give you 9 calories per gram where as carbohydrates and proteins give 4 cal per gram. Thus, Fats are the best source of energy in the body thus need to be taken in carefully and judiciously. Interestingly fats do not supply energy for the brain and nervous system, which rely on glucose for fuel.
Fats add flavor and a smooth pleasing texture to foods. Because they take longer to digest, fats give a feeling of fullness for a long time. They also stimulate a hormone that suppresses hunger. This is the reason why one should include a moderate amount of ‘healthy fats’ in their diet to maintain normal body functions and lose weight.

Fat is required in the body for numerous chemical processes, including growth and development in children, production of steroidal hormones, formation and function of cell membranes and transport of molecules in and out of the cells.

Like vitamins and certain amino acids some fatty acids need to come from the diet as they cannot be synthesized in the body these are known as ‘essential fatty acids’. Our need for essential fatty acids is met by linoleic acid (found in vegetable oils especially corn, safflower, and soyabean) which is converted to arachidonic acid, another essential fatty acid. Finally fats are required for transport and absorption of fat soluble vitamins.

The right type and amount of fat intake is essential as it contains essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins and helps maintain healthy body functions and prevent diseases. ‘The type of fat you eat may be more important that the total fat you eat’, so choose them wisely! Fats are of different types which are
  • Saturated fats
  • Polyunsaturated fats
  • Monounsaturated fats
Saturated fats
They are easily identifiable as they are ‘solid fats’ like ghee, butter, margarine, animal fats, etc. But other saturated fats can be more difficult to see in your diet. Highly saturated fats raise blood cholesterol levels because they interfere with removal of cholesterol from the blood. In general, saturated fat can be found in the following foods:
  • High-fat cheeses
  • High-fat cuts of meat , some forms of sea foods
  • Ice cream and ice cream products
  • Palm and coconut oils
  • Cakes, pastries and cookies
It's important to note that lower-fat versions of these foods usually will contain saturated fats, but typically in smaller quantities than the regular versions.

As you look at this list above, notice two things. First, animal fats are a primary source of saturated fat.Secondly, certain plant oils are another source of saturated fats: palm oils, coconut oils, and cocoa butter.
You may think you don't use palm or coconut oils, but they are often added to commercially-prepared foods, such as cookies, cakes, doughnuts, and pies. Solid vegetable shortening often contains palm oils and some whipped dessert toppings contain coconut oil.

How to control saturated fats?

It is best to avoid sources of saturated fats. Here are some tips to cut back on saturated fats;
  • Avoid cheese, butter, cream (malai), margarine, dalda, vanaspati.
  • Avoid red meat. Choose chicken, low fat fish etc.
  • Choose leaner cuts of meat that do not have a marbled appearance (white lines or deposits on meat). Leaner cuts include round cuts and sirloin cuts. Trim all visible fat off meats before eating.
  • Remove the skin from chicken, turkey, and other poultry before cooking.
  • When re-heating soups or stews, skim the solid fats from the top before heating.
  • Drink toned or double toned milk rather than whole fat milk. If not remove the fat layer before consumption.
  • Buy low-fat or non-fat versions of milk or dairy products.
  • When you want a sweet treat, reach for a low-fat or fat-free version of your favorite ice cream or frozen dessert. These versions usually contain less saturated fat.
  • Use low-fat spreads instead of butter. Most margarine spreads contain less saturated fat than butter. Look for a spread that is low in saturated fat and doesn't contain trans fats.
  • Pay attention at snack time. Some convenience snacks like chips and wafers contain saturated fat. Choose instead to have non-fat or low-fat yogurt and a piece of fruit.
What are ‘Trans’ fats ?

These fats are created during food processing when liquid oils are converted into solid fats — a process called hydrogenation. This creates partially-hydrogenated oils that tend to keep food fresh longer while on grocery shelves. The problem is that these partially-hydrogenated oils contain trans fats which can also increase low-density lipoprotein LDL-cholesterol and decrease high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol — increasing risk for developing heart disease.

As Trans fats are a cause of heart diseases and high cholesterol levels it is better to avoid them completely. Though some fried foods and commercially baked goods may contain trans fats, the good news is that some manufacturers have changed how they process foods to reduce the amounts of trans fats in their products.
Be on the look out for foods that contain trans fats, such as commercially-baked cookies, crackers, and pies. Some commercial restaurants may also use partially-hydrogenated oils when frying their food items. Thus it is important to read the labels of the food products we consume and choose the ones that are labeled as ‘Zero Trans Fats’.

Most of the fat that you eat should come from unsaturated sources: polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) and monounsaturated fats (MUFA). In general, nuts, vegetable oils, and fish are sources of unsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated Fats
Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and solid or semisolid under refrigeration. The ones that are liquids are liquids at room temperature, have been found to lower LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol levels and raise HDL ‘good’ cholesterol levels. Olive oils, canola oil, peanut oil, avacado, nuts and some seeds are good sources of monounsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated Fats
Poly unsaturated fats are liquids. There health benefits include lowering of blood cholesterol levels Polyunsaturated fats can also be broken down into two types:
  • Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats — these fats provide an essential fatty acid that our bodies need, but can't make.
  • Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats — these fats also provide an essential fatty acid that our bodies need. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids, particularly from fish sources, may have potential health benefits.
Why are Omega – 3 fats good ?
  • It increases blood clotting time
  • Increases body metabolism thus burning more calories
  • Reduces chances of occurrence of cardiovascular anomalies
  • Helps regulate blood sugar control
Beneficial in reducing blood cholesterol especially Low Density Lipoproteins ( bad cholesterol)

The table below provides examples of specific types of unsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated Fat Sources Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fat Sources Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fat Sources
Vegetable oils
Canola oil
Olive oil
High oleic safflower oil
Sunflower oil
Soybean oil
Corn oil
Safflower oil
Soybean oil
Canola oil
Fish:  trout, herring, and salmon
These days many oils are available in the markets which have the correct omega 6 to omega 3 ratio. Another easy way to ensure your oil is healthy is to blend oils commonly used at homes to get the perfect fatty acid profile .

Blended oil combinations and proportions of mixture
Low in Omega 6 and High Omega 3 Proportion Low in Omega 6 Proportion
1. GNO: MO 3:1 1. SAF: POL 1:2
2. GNO: CAN 2:1 2. SUN: POL 1:1
3. GNO: SBO 2:1 3. SES: POL 1: 1
4. POL: SBO 1:1 4. SAF: GNO/ RBO 1: 3
5. SAF: PO: MO 1:1:1 5. SUN: GNO/RBO 1: 3
6. SUN:PO: MO 2:1: 6. SES: GNO 1: 3
GNO – Groundnut oil MO – Mustard oil CAN – Canola oil
SBO – Soyabean oil POL – Palmolein oil SAF – Safflower oil
SUN – Sunflower oil SES – Sesame oil RBO – Rice bran oil

What are the recommended amounts of fats?
Fats should constitute 15-25% of the total calories. Out of which there should be equal proportions of saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (1:1:1). The Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio should be 5: 11.

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