Fat is a macronutrient which is a concentrated source of energy and all types of fats give 9 kilocalories when consumed. Fat is needed to absorb fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E and K, to insulate our body and protect the organs. Fats are classified into monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Consuming a lot of saturated fat seems to increase the risk of heart disease. So, what are saturated fats? How does it affect our health and what are the ways to reduce the intake of saturated fat? This is what is discussed below in the article.
What are saturated fats?
Fats that are firmly packed are saturated fats. They are usually solid or waxy at room temperature and mostly come from animal products and tropical oils.
Which foods contain saturated fats?
Foods high in saturated fats include: beef, pork, skin of poultry, salami, high fat dairy products like full fat milk, cream, cheese, full fat paneer, butter, lard, shortening, margarine, baked foods like cookies, pastries, and tropical oils like coconut oil, palm oil, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
How do saturated fats affect health?
Not all fats are bad for you. Fats help you to feel full after eating, but there are certain foods that contain saturated fats which are also high in cholesterol. Frequent intake of foods high in saturated fats leads to health problems like increased blood cholesterol particularly LDL cholesterol (also called as bad cholesterol) thus increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. There is an increased risk for obesity and Type 2 diabetes with a diet rich in saturated fats.
Practical tips to reduce saturated fat in the diet:
• Read the food label of the food product that you are buying. Read the ingredients list. If the ingredient says hydrogenated vegetable oil, hydrogenated fats, shortening etc. do not buy the product. If at all you wish to buy the product ensure that there is 5 grams or less than 5 gms of saturated fat per 100 gms of the product.• Snack smart. When hunger strikes, the food one picks is usually fried or rich in sugars. To avoid a situation like that, carry healthy snacks like nuts, a sandwich, fruits, etc• Eat more of fruits and vegetables• Choose skimmed milk and milk products like low fat paneer, low fat cheese etc.• Choose lean meat, skinless poultry and fish; also limit the intake of these foods and maintain the appropriate portion sizes. For example, do not eat meat and fish beyond the size of a palm or a deck of cards. Always opt for grilled, baked, poached, or steamed forms instead of roasting and frying.• Pulses, dals, soyabean, tofu, egg whites are other good low fat sources of protein.• Opt for hummus, guacamole, or Greek yogurt as dips or spread on sandwiches instead of cheese spread or mayonnaise
Tips to remember when cooking:
• Eat lean cuts of meat and remove all the visible fat and skin from the poultry• Bake, broil or grill meat. Avoid frying• Avoid cream and cheese sauces, make recipes using low fat milk• Limit the hydrogenated fats (shortening, lard), animal fat (butter, cream). Instead use vegetable oils like sunflower, olive, canola, etc.• Sprinkle lemon juice and herbs /spices on cooked vegetables instead of using cheese, butter or cream-based sauces.Tips to make healthy choices at the restaurant:• Choose baked, roasted or broiled food instead of sautéed or food with creamy gravies• Tomato gravies are a better choice instead of creamy gravies like kormas• Opt for plain whole wheat roti instead of butter nan, butter kulcha, paratha with butter or ghee, butter roti, etc.• Always opt for clear soup or broth based soups instead of cream based soups• Request for salad with oil or vinegar or salad dressings on the side• While ordering for Thai food, restrict the intake of rich coconut based gravies as they are high in saturated fats• Opt for fruits, sorbet, low fat yogurt with fruits for dessert instead of ice creams, cakes or other sweets• Swap the whole milk coffee with the regular “skinny” ones. Avoid the cream on the top.
According to a study published in “Journal of the American College of Cardiology” a 5% decrease in saturated fat intake daily lowered the risk of developing the heart problems by 15%. American Heart Association has recommended limiting the intake of saturated fat to not more than 6% of daily intake. To know about the foods that can contain saturated fats it is best to visit a nutritionist who can help plan healthy meals. For corporates, many nutritionists in Mumbai and dietitians in Mumbai help in organizing corporate wellness programs and also help parents of children and other adults plan healthy meals through their weight loss program and child nutrition program.