Know your oil to make a healthy difference

Know your oil to make a healthy difference
Cooking oils are a confusing food item today. In the earlier days, it was simple — the choice was limited to ghee, vanaspati, mustard, sesame and coconut. Depending on whcih part of the country you lived, these were broadly the cooking mediums used by our mothers and grandmothers. However, nobody really knew their health benefits, or their adverse effects for that matter. For example, we had no idea that oils were hydrogenated, and that consuming just two grams of hydrogenated oils in a day — the amount contained in one doughnut fried in this type of fat — increases your chances of getting heart disease by 23 per cent.

Today, you can find oils that are pure, refined, hydrogenated or light. Oils that are virgin, extra virgin, cold pressed, first press and so on. Oils that contain saturated fats, those that contain monounsaturated fats and those that have polyunsaturated fats. And finally, there are some oils that are essential for the body (like the Omega 3 fatty acids which the body does not make and does not store either).

It has been proved that only oils which are plant based are healthy for the heart. Fats from animal sources, like ghee or lard, are full of saturated fats which can lead to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity amongst other diseases. So all you ghee lovers, stop digging in — right now,

For an ideal diet, less than 7 per cent of your daily fat calories should come from saturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are good for the body and can be found naturally in fruits like olives, avocados and nuts. Olive oil is a good source of this type of fat.

Avoid oils like grape seed oil which contains a high amount of Omega 6 since it is responsible for inflammation in the human body. A high state of inflammation can fuel the growth of cancer cells. Omega 3 can be found naturally in flax seeds and walnuts.

Refined oils have their impurities cleaned out and unrefined oils don’t. According to Dr Hemant Phatak, a nutritionist and scientist, rice bran oil (even refined) is among the very good oils. It has Tocotrienol, an unusual type of Vitamin E. What is sold as Canola oil is a genetically modified Rapeseed oil, and is bad. Ordinary, unrefined Rapeseed oil is a good source of Omega-3 fats, but has to be kept at low temperatures. Coconut oil (cold pressed) is a nutritional powerhouse, unnecessarily blamed in the past as being a saturated fat. It has medium-chain fats and is an excellent source of energy for diabetics and patients with dementia.

This gajar ka halway recipe which substitutes unhealthy ghee with healthy coconut oil has been contributed by actor Kumar Gaurav.

Gaajar ka halwa (4 servings)

Ingredients: 8 large carrots, 3 tbsp powdered jaggery, ½ tsp pounded green cardamom, 2 tbsp raisins and sliced almonds, 2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil

Decoration: 4-5 almonds, slivered

Method: Cut the carrots into 3” pieces and pressure cook over low heat for 7-8 minutes after the cooker reaches full pressure. Blend them to a smooth consistency and put in a large ceramic pan over high heat. Stir continuously till it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderate and continue stirring for another 5-7 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, then cook on low till the mixture starts to dry up. Cook till it forms a ball in the centre of the pan.

Remove from heat and put the halwa in a dish. Let it cool slightly, sprinkle with almond slivers and serve warm.

(The writer is a vegan chef

and author of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!)

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