We are a generation that is striving everyday to eat healthy and stay fit. We may try to kick dietary oil out of our lives as it is regarded as the main culprit in making us fat, but this is not the answer, and the alternatives have their own side effects. There is a smart way to consume oils to optimise health - here's how.
Why oil is important in the diet
needed for healthy skin, eyes and bones.
necessary for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K.
essential for building healthy skin membranes.
provides a protective layer around organs and nerves.
helps in regulating hormones, cushioning organs, and skin lubrication.
How much oil do I need?
If we draw a healthy food pyramid, fat makes for the apex, hence the smallest quantity in the diet - fat comes from many sources in our diet and not just oil. Daily recommended fat consumption varies depending on age, gender, lifestyle factors etc. A very general rule of thumb is 30% of your energy intake.
Instead of using oil directly from the bottle, you can monitor your consumption; if there are 2 persons in your home and each has to consume 2-3 tablespoons oil daily, take 5 tablespoons of oil in a bowl or jar at the start of the day. You have to do all your cooking using that quantity only. Also if you have indulged in fried foods on a particular day, compensate for the next 2-3 days by using less than half the daily recommendation.
Oil in cooking Oil as a cooking ingredient is a constant, no matter which part of the world you are in. We need to make smart choices when it comes to cooking oil.
Use a neutral oil so that it does not over-power the taste of the other ingredients in the dish.
For frying or grilling use an oil which has a high smoke point (example ghee, coconut oil, avocado oil)
Mono and poly-unsaturated fats help to reduce the bad cholesterol, increase the HDL, which is heart-friendly. They contains essential fatty acids like omega 3, 6 and 9 which are needed for good health.
Use oil that is meant for cooking. For example, extra virgin olive oil has a low smoke point and is ideal for salads and dressings. If it is used for high temperature cooking, it undergoes oxidation and is totally unhealthy. Pure olive oil is more suited to cooking.
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Smart cooking methods If one has to opine honestly, with regards to food, taste always comes before health. That is why we reach a point where due to health reasons, we have to put health before taste. If we make right choices with foods and methods of cooking early in life, we will be able to enjoy tasty food, or 'indulge' occasionally.
Steaming, grilling and baking are methods that require less oil. While sautéing or stir frying, try steaming vegetables before adding, they will cook faster in lesser oil. Or add some water to your pan after an initial fry with a little oil.
Re-using oil that has already been used for frying is a complete no-no. It contains trans-fats which are harmful and contain bad cholesterol. Avoid margarine, deep fried foods and instant foods like noodles which are loaded with hyrdrogenated fats.
In salads or uncooked dishes, try to include natural sources of healthy oil like nuts, seeds and avocado.
For a person trying to lose weight or reduce cholesterol, cutting out oil from the diet is not the solution - in fact it is more harmful. Good oils containing essential fatty acids make your heart healthy in addition to giving supple skin and strong hair. It is more important to limit intake of sugary foods or refined carbohydrates which ultimately get converted into fats. Make correct food choices and you can have a healthy, nutritious body while keeping your taste buds happy.