Fat adds taste to meals. Almost everyone will vouch for that.
Yet, for years, it has been getting a bad rap to the extent that now when we hear the word "fat," we automatically think "bad" and are constantly on a hunt for fat-free foods.
Thanks to new research though, now it is clear that ‘fat is ok – but you have to eat the right kind’.
My advice is to focus on consuming essential fatty acids (EFAs) as our body cannot make them indigenously. Like vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients, we must get them from the foods we eat.
Similar to all fats, EFAs also provide energy, make food palatable, and satiate hunger faster. Their calorific value is similar to other fats and oils but unlike some other fats, they actually help you become healthy!
They can help keep your heart safe, are good for diabetics, and have significant anti-inflammatory properties too.
Omega-3 is one such EFA which can do lots for our health, particularly heart health.
But there are other sources of good fats too. See the list below.
Now that saturated fat is not the devil it was being made out to be, it’s time to get a little ghee back in our diet.
It is now clear that it is actually excess carbohydrates and sugar in our diet that is more to be blamed rather than saturated fat.
So go on smear a little ghee on the roti, or put a tadka on the subzi or dal without being scared.
There is no doubt that omega-3 has the amazing power to keep the body free of heart disease and diabetes, and it also plays a significant role in fending off increasingly common illnesses like asthma, arthritis, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, and even certain types of cancer.
You definitely need to put more of this wonder nutrient on your plate.
And fatty fish – salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, and trout – are its richest sources.
So make sure you eat these at least twice a week.
If you hate fish or are a strict vegetarian, get alpha-linolenic acid (which gets converted to omega-3 fatty acid in the body) from flax seeds.
Have one tbsp flaxseeds 3-4 times a week (sprinkle on soups, curries, dals), or incorporate some flaxseed oil in your cooking.
Most of the kind of fat that nuts contain is unsaturated. Almonds, for example, pack in lots of Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA), which are great for our heart as they help lower bad cholesterol LDL, and increase HDL (the good one).
Walnuts, besides MUFA, also have omega-3 that helps lower cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and improve blood flow through the arteries.
We need more of omega-3 in our diet but we end up getting more of omega-6 which is not good news for us. Too much omega-6 can create inflammation.
Macademia nuts with its fabulous ratio of omega-6 vs omega-3 of 6:1 can help correct this imbalance in the body and help reduce inflammation. So eat some nuts every day.
Coconut is loaded with saturated fat. In fact, even more than butter. That is why, for a long time, it was considered bad for the arteries and was shunned.
But now we know that it is actually heart healthy. That’s because more than 50 percent of it is lauric acid, that actually boosts HDL cholesterol and helps decrease our risk of heart disease.
So shred some in your curries.
That said, do understand that fat is fat when it comes to calories and from any source, it provides 9 calories per gram. The way to go about it is to consume the right kind in the appropriate amount.
So replace bad fats with good fats and keep it to 25 percent of your total calorie intake for the day, of which only 10 percent should come from saturated fats.
(Kavita Devgan is a nutritionist, weight management consultant, and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of The Don't Diet Plan: A no-nonsense guide to weight loss, Fix it with Food, Ultimate Grandmother Hacks, and The Immunity Diet and 500 Recipes: Simple Tricks for Stress Free Cooking.)