Monthly Archives: June 2013

Why you need FATS?

You avoid it while trying to lose weight, when cholesterol goes up, if you are conscious about your health or when there’s an acne outbreak. You guessed it right… I am talking about FAT. Fat, the nutrient which is most avoided by health enthusiasts is not that bad as is considered. Being a nutrient it has many roles to play for our well being. 

FAT the storage form of energy acts as a back- up for carbohydrates, the primary fuel. The fat we eat gets stored in our body and is available at times our body is short of energy. This benefit sometimes becomes the reason fat is despised by us.

All  body  cells  contain  some  fat. In  a healthy  non-obese female, fat makes 18-25% of body weight and 15-20% in a healthy  non-obese  male. This proportion changes with aging, pregnancy and lactation. Fat lesser or higher than this proportion can lead to various health problems especially related to reproductive system and cardiovascular system.

I had a friend in school who never used to feel cold even on days we were shivering and chattering our teeth. Now I know why? He would be having a nice padding of fat. The subcutaneous layer (layer beneath our skin) of fat is an effective insulator that reduces losses of heat from the body. Fat layer also protects delicate vital organs e.g. kidneys from getting injured with their cushioning effect.

Sweaters and cushions but there is lot more about fats which makes this nutrient necessary for us. Fats are carriers of fat soluble vitamins A,D, E, K. Fats are needed for the absorption and movement of these vitamins inside our body. Needless to say that with a deficiency of fats we can precipitate deficiency of these vitamins too.

Essential  Fatty  Acids are the fatty acids which cannot be synthesized by our body and thus must be present in the diet. Deficiency of these can lead to growth retardation, skin lesions, liver degeneration, dry scaly skin to name a few. Fat in our diet is the source of essential fatty acids.

Another benefit of fat in the diet is that it is the source (only animal foods) of cholesterol. Yes you read it correctly. It is a benefit if taken in correct amounts. Cholesterol is a component of cell membranes and helps in synthesis of vitamin D, reproductive hormones  and bile salts.

Fats also contribute to taste and palatibility to our food. It is a very important cooking medium and helps us in making lots of recipes.

SOURCES

Fat is present in two modes in our foods: visible and invisible. Like we all do with our chat ids.

Visible fat: Butter, ghee, margarine, cream,  salad  oils, lard, cooking oils, etc.

Invisible fat: Cheese, egg yolk, nuts, oil-seeds, etc.

How much fat to include in diet?

Not more than 20-25% of the diet’s total calories should come from fat. For those of us who have health  problems wherein we need to restrict fat should keep fat intake between 10-15% of the total calorie intake.

It is rightly said “excess of everything is bad”. Same holds true for fats as well.

What’s on your plate?

choose my plateFood: one of the most important parts of our existence after air and water. Our life revolves around food as much as that no special occasion or celebration is complete without special preparations. Like taking in polluted air or water is harmful for us so is food. By polluted food I don’t intend to mean infected food I mean wrong choice. The food on our plate besides being hygienic and nutritious should be quantified according to our needs.

There are lots of ways for deciphering the quantity of various foods that we need to include in our daily diet. The simplest way is food guide pyramid. A food guide pyramid is a simple way of knowing the amounts of various foods a person needs to consume to ensure good health. It is a pictorial description in the form of a pyramid which houses various foods from base to apex. The ones at the base should be in highest quantity in the diet and those at the apex in least.

The concept of food guide pyramid was introduced as early as 1974 but the most prevalent one was launched by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) in 1992 and has been revised a couple of times since then.

According to this pyramid you should build a healthy base i.e. at base there is Bread, Cereal, Rice & Pasta Group. It is recommended that there should be 6 to 11 servings from this group in a day’s diet. Next up the pyramid vegetables and fruits share space together. Include 3-5 servings of vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruit daily. Milk and milk products which fulfill protein requirements in a vegetarian person should be 2 to 3. Meat, poultry, fish, pulses, eggs and nuts not more than 2 to 3 servings every day. And at the tip of this pyramid are fats, oils and sweets which are recommended in small quantities.

In the latest depiction the USDA has scrapped the pyramid and has used plate as a pictorial. As you can see in the picture vegetables and fruits have got the largest area demarcated for them. Portion sizes for grains have decreased since the pyramid came into existence because of changes in our physical activity pattern. As a result we need to increase our consumption of fibre and decrease the intake of carbs.

The pictorial is only a reference for the quantity of intake of various food groups; actual calorie intake would differ from person to person.

Image Courtesy: www.choosemyplate.gov