For far too long, the word ‘fat’ has been a bad word in our lexicon. We do not wish to look fat and hence, we avoid fats or fatty foods. But are all fats our enemy? And do we absolutely have to cut them out from our diet? The answer may come as a surprise to many, for it is in the negative.
Nutritionist and fitness consultant Munmun Ganeriwal emphasises that fats are not all bad. For starters, she shares how adding fats to carb-rich food lowers the overall GI (glycaemic index) of the meal. “Fat basically slows down stomach emptying, delaying the process of converting food to blood sugar. Hence, more the fat, the slower the sugars (carbohydrates) get digested, and the lower is the glycemic index. Lower GI in foods has long been the strategy for insulin resistance, PCOD, diabetes and weight loss,” says Ganeriwal, who even recommends pairing hot, fluffy rice with a spoonful of ghee.
Good fats and bad fats
Mumbai-based dietician Zamrud Patel points out that like in the case of most things, fats too can be good or bad. “Chemically, all fats may be the same but the fact remains that good fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, whereas the bad fats include saturated and trans fats,” she says.
Needless to say, Patel swears by food items that are rich sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. “Some good sources of polyunsaturated fats are corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil and non-hydrogenated soybean oil. Fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, as also flaxseeds and walnuts too are good sources. For monounsaturated fats, one can have olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, and most nuts, as well as sunflower oil.”
Ghee is good
Ganeriwal, meanwhile, is quick to dispel myths surrounding good old ghee. “Ghee is especially unique amongst all dietary fats due to the presence of SCFA, aka short chain fatty acids. The SCFA in ghee makes it ‘lipolytic’ — that which breaks down body fat and aids weight loss,” she says, adding how ghee’s slightly nutty, buttery flavour makes it an easy addition to most meals even as it provides a healthy source of fat to keep one feeling fuller longer between meals.
Why fats are a must
Ghee aside, fats as such — when consumed in moderate amounts — are said to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation in the gut. Ganeriwal points out that Vitamin D being a fat-soluble vitamin is yet another big plus. “Research has shown that deficiency of Vitamin D is strongly associated with several health problems such as thyroid gland malfunction, mental ill-health, lack of immunity and so on. This means that those looking to increase their low Vitamin D levels can not be fussy about consuming essential fats such as ghee, coconut, white butter etc. In fact, ‘low fat’ ice-cream, ‘skimmed’ and ‘double toned’ milk may actually do just the opposite for people,” she reveals.
Ganeriwal even warns against the phenomenon where people look down upon Vitamin D carriers like makkhan and replace it with other Vitamin-enriched oils or ‘fat free’ alternatives. “As a result, such people are not really hungry or undernourished in the physical sense but they still have all the signs of hunger and malnourishment in that they struggle to sleep at night, wake up tired in the morning, suffer from acidity, constipation, irritability and overall low energy that strikes at the core of their health and vitality.”