Understanding Cooking Oils – Their terms and their Usage to maintain optimum health
No meal is complete without a healthy amount of fat in it. In fact fat lends flavour, enhances digestion, ensures freshness and provides the much needed nutrition not only through its various elements but also acts as a facilitator for body to store absolutely essential vitamins like A, D, E & K. It also helps in maintaining normal core body temperature. Hence one should consume the best quality of fat one can afford since its significance cannot be overemphasised.
Here I have attempted to decode some important terms and enumerate the benefits of different types of fats / cooking oils present in our everyday food.
- Unsaturated Fats – Polyunsaturated / Monounsaturated / Omega-3
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) / Extra virgin oils like fish oil, sunflower oils, corn and soybean should not be used for high heat cooking. PUFA reduce LLDL and increase HDL Cholesterol and help the body rid itself of newly formed cholesterol. Sunflower oil can increase sugar levels, though is good for skin (Cosmetics) due to high Vit E.
Monounsaturated fat (MUFA) is found in olives, olive and canola oil, most nuts like peanut and their oils & sesame, avocados and can be used for high temperature cooking
Omega 3 (DHA mainly + EPA) – An essential fatty acids PUFA, is necessary for human health but the body can’t make it. It’s found in fish like salmon, tuna, and halibut, other seafood including algae and krill, some plants, and nut oils.
- Good Saturated fats & Bad Saturated Fats – Hydrogenated Transfat
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are contained in food products like butter, Ghee, dairy, or the fat on meat products. Ghee – is composed primarily of fats, but it also contains significant levels of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, Omega-3s in addition to other fatty acids like conjugated linoleic acid and butyric acid (short chain fatty acid), both of which have positive health benefits in the body. (Refer to Section E for detailed benefits of Ghee).
Medium chain fatty acids are also good saturated fats and are unique since they are not stored in appreciable amounts in body and are promptly burned as fuel. When they are ingested, fat burning increases and so does production of ketones. Coconut and palm kernel oil are uniquely rich in medium chain fatty acids (more than 50% of total fat). Milk fat (cream and butter) also deliver a decent amount medium chain fatty acids (about 20% of total fat).
Hydrogenated-Trans fat is simply liquid oils (eg palm oil) turned into solid fats during food processing. Trans fats raises LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lowers HDL (“good”) cholesterol. They have also been shown to have other harmful effects such as increasing triglycerides and Lp(a) lipoproteins, cause more inflammation, which is thought to occur through damage to the cells lining of blood vessels. They are present in most processed / packaged foods and should be avoided
- Good Omega 6 fatty acids – GLA & CLAThese essential fatty acids have many of the same benefits as Omega 3 fatty acids, but they are not as widely encouraged as those from fish sources Omega 6 fatty acids are those found in plant sources like avocadoes, nuts and flax seeds. Also present in margarines and sunflower oils, though they are good for us, consumption of too much of these fats without being balanced against an intake of foods in the omega 3 groups of foods can be unhealthy.GLA’s help with inflammation due to arthritis and autoimmune diseases, and in maintaining healthy skin (Acne /Psoriasis) and losing weight. CLA also has anti-cancer properties and other benefits. GLA is found in borage seed oil, evening primrose oil and black currant seed oil. CLA is found in grass fed dairy and poultry. Women especially can benefit from these Omega 6 fatty acids as they can also help with menstrual disorders and related symptoms. CLA & GLA produce certain kinds of prostaglandins that promote healthy hormonal activity during menstrual cycles by easing and regulating blood flow and alleviating PMS
- Balance Hormones Naturally with Good Fats If you’re struggling with thyroid issues, adrenal fatigue, or any hormone imbalance, eat these six to naturally balance your hormones:
- Healthy Omega 9 Fats (Avocadoes, Almonds, Olive Oil)
- Short Chain Fatty Acid (Grass-fed Butter, Ghee, Organic Kefir and Yogurt)
- Omega 3 Fatty Acid(Wild Caught Salmon, Chia seeds, Flax seeds, Walnuts)
- Medium Chain Fatty Acid (Coconut oil and Coconut Products)
- GLA (Hemp Seeds) – good Omega 6 – may help with inflammation and to lose weight
- CLA (Grass fed dairy & Ghee and poultry) helps to reduce fat & possible anti-cancer properties– good Omega
Some benefits of Ghee as per Ayurveda
- Effect on Brain – Only Fat Soluble substances and alcohol soluble substances like ghee can cross the blood brain barrier. Ghee increases the receptive power, cognitive power, remembering power. Brain development takes place mostly during childhood and giving 1 teaspoon of ghee everyday especially during this age, will enhance intellectual power of brain. The effect is multiplied a 100 times if medicated ghee like Brahmi Ghritam, Saraswata Ghritam etc is used.It enhances growth of brain/ memory thus making child sharper and smarter. People with psychiatric complaints like mood disorders, schizophrenia etc get good results with medicated ghee treatments.
- Effect on metabolism – Ghee is said to be Agni Vardhaka and help with bio- chemical transformations in body. Daily one teaspoon of ghee on empty stomach in normal healthy state helps in proper production of Agni.
- Increase immunity – Ghee is said to be Bala Vardhaka. Bala is the resistance power of a person. Immune power is increased which protects body from common colds etc. Suggested medicated ghee – SIndukantham, Amruthaprasham
- Effect on Gastro-Intestinal Tract – Ghee nourishes the mucosa thereby preventing formation / healing of gastric ulcer. It also reduces hyperacidity and prevents burning sensation in chest. Ghee is also good to cure constant gas formation. It also makes digestion normal and enhances quality and functions of gastric and pancreatic juices.
- Action on Male Reproductive System – Ghee can pass the blood testes barrier. Ghee increases sperm count, seminal fluid amount and motility of sperms. In many infertility cases treatment with medicated ghee have brought good results.
- Action on Female Reproductive System – Ghee is a medicine of choice in common gynaecological conditions like menstrual abnormalities, infections of uterine tract, infertility, repeated abortions, uterine prolapse and hormonal imbalance induced uterine and vaginal complaints etc. Ghee is also of special importance during pregnancy i.e. ante-natal care. Ghee medicated with certain medicinal plants if used in the three trimesters of pregnancy, help in full term normal vaginal delivery.
- Good for throat – Ghee is especially good for making voice smooth and tuned. It also prevents fatigue of throat.
- For Detox – Fruits and vegetables that we eat today are full of insecticides and pesticides…..most other food that we eat is also adulterated…..especially meats which contain hormones in high quantity causing hormonal imbalance to body. This is called gara visha in Ayurveda and intake of ghee is an excellent way to detoxify the body.
- Lubricate Joints – Ghee lubricates joints, strengthens back bone and makes them functional. In treatment of osteo-arthritis and rheumatoidarthritis,ghee is effective.
- Act as anti-agingagent – Consuming ghee delays aging and it brightens face when applied along with pure Turmeric Powder.
- Making respiratory system robust – Ghee prevents occurrence of lung disorders like asthma and other diseases.
HOW TO TAKE GHEE
Ghee should be only taken after the digestive process of our body is good and our Kapha in the body has been decreased. If ghee is taken in this condition, it will get digested well and will act like a Nectar or Amrut.
If ghee is taken during acute infections or when there is high temperature or when there is little or no appetite with increased Kapha, it will not get digested and will act like poison. Either there will be aggravation of the condition or there will not be any effect on the system…..
Read Next month – Cooking oils used in the kitchen – When & how to use them
By – Shalini Jindal, Health Enthusiast
Following a mantra of doing good “Health Karma”, Shalini has been an avid enthusiast of eating naturally healthy. A 42 year old, mother of two healthy daughters (17 yrs / 5 yrs) and a Chartered Accountant by education, her passion is now taking shape in an upcoming health & beauty blog.
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