With information on clinical nutrition and the kinds of fat available more freely, consumers are now getting more aware of the difference between good fats and bad fats. And with this comes the power of choice for them to choose the best fat for their health. After the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Heart Association approved the use of rice bran oil, stating that its composition of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats is much safer as compared to the composition of most other vegetable oils, consumption of rice bran oil across the world has seen a tremendous spike. It is also interesting to note that consumption of extra virgin olive oil has also witnessed a rampant increase with. This is because the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for heart health and longevity have also been extensively written about by nutrition and epidemiological experts.
So how is this consumption behaviour impacting consumers? In the well-informed upper economic strata, the per litre consumption of oil in households for the purpose of frying has reduced in conjunction with an escalation in usage of raw oils like virgin olive oil, coconut oil and flaxseed oil. Interestingly, while studies for olive oil and flaxseed oil have only shown benefits in reduction of inflammation levels, hormonal issues, the reports about virgin coconut oil are mixed because in many cases they may have resulted in accumulation of bad fat in the body because of coconut oil's high saturated fat content. I have seen this with many of my patients as well, who shifted from raw extra-virgin olive oil to coconut oil and reported a fatty liver within eight months of consumption.
However, with the increased usage of rice bran oil, its benefits on heart health, especially cholesterol levels cannot go unnoticed. These benefits, which have now been discovered, have always persisted as one of the secrets of good heart health in the traditional Japanese diet. The Japanese primarily used rice bran oil in all their cooking and traditional Japanese disease rate used to be just 3%. Learning from epidemiological data of generations of Japanese consuming this oil, the Western nutrition and medical world is now waking up to these benefits much more.
The most important aspect of oil consumption is that you need to consume much less quantity of cooking oil, compared to raw oil which can be taken in relatively more amounts, after consulting an expert. This leads to better heart health, lower bad fat and lower inflammation levels, especially in high-risk populations like India. Cooking oils like sunflower, rice bran and mustard oil, all have a smoke point of 227 degrees Celsius and hence should be used for high flame Indian cooking sparingly. With unsaturated oils like extra virgin olive and flaxseed oils the smoke point of 160 degrees is low, hence their usage should be in raw salads. Extra virgin olive and flaxseed oils are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, making them ideal for reducing bad cholesterol and inflammation inside the body. Lastly, if you are using saturated fats like coconut oil, butter and ghee, you should know that their smoke points are 177 degrees and hence they should be used very sparingly as saturated fat can increase our triglycerides and cholesterol as well as the risk of stomach-related cancers and prostate cancer. A lot of people use butter, ghee or coconut oil for tempering spices on high flame for the dals, however, the smoke point for these oils is 177 degrees Celsius. This means that when we actually put the "tadka" we are dangerously close to converting butter, ghee and coconut oil into carcinogenic oils as they have already reached their smoke point of 177 degrees. A good measure is not more than 5% of the total fat you consume.
Hence, when you keep the above balance, enjoying good food and good health are a possibility now!
About Author: Ms. Rachna Chhachhi is a Cancer Nutrition Expert & Brand Ambassador Gemini Cooking Oils
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