The cardiovascular disease burden in our country continues to increase given the unhealthy life choices made by the 21st century Indian. A predominantly sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, high-stress levels all contribute to this trend. The need of the hour is to concentrate on the prevention and reversal of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) which is the most rapidly growing form of heart disease in the country. While overall lifestyle management is the best way to do this, a minor alteration in the basic household cooking oils can go a long way in the prevention of CAD.
In India cooking oil forms an integral part of every household and are a rich source of dietary fats. While edible oils rich in bad cholesterol, saturated and trans fats in excess quantities can cause the development of plaque deposits in the heart arteries, causing blockages and heart attacks, those with MUFA, PUFA (especially Omega-3 PUFA) are found to have a protective effect. However, no one oil has the perfect blend of the fatty acids required by the body. The usual trend in India is for people belonging to different geographies to use different oils for their daily cooking needs. For instance in the western and southern part of India, the usage of groundnut oil is more while in the north and eastern India, mustard oil is preferred over other oils. Research however indicates that consuming a blend of cooking oils is extremely heart healthy and should be adopted in every household.
According to Dr. Manoj Kumar, Associate Director & Head – Cardiac Cath Lab, Max Super Specialty Hospital, Patparganj, ‘Statistics revealed by the National Institute of Nutrition India state that our diet should consist of 15-30% fats. Edible oils are one of the major sources of dietary fats in our diet. An ideal heart-healthy diet should be rich in healthier, unsaturated fats as they help in lowering the risks of heart disease and stroke. Food items rich in monosaturated fatty acids (MUFA) reduce the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (LDL-C) often called the bad cholesterol and increase high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels, the good cholesterol. Some of the nutrient rich oils include olive oil, ground nut oil, rice bran oil, mustard oil, canola oil.It is important for each one of us to remember that while fats of animal origin (butter, ghee, lard) may be rich in cholesterol, vegetable oils have no cholesterol, but some of them can lead to endogenous production of cholesterol. So choosing the right type and blend of oils is essential.’ (Read: Which cooking oil is best for your heart?)
Dietary fats are classified basis their saturation. They can be segregated as saturated fat, partially hydrogenated or trans fatty acids, unsaturated fatty acids, monosaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Studies prove that a mix of various fats having fatty acid compositions and additional minor components like tocotrienols, oryzanol and a good balance of SFA, MUFA and PUFA help in bringing about favourable serum lipid profiles which shield against coronary artery disease (CAD).
Throwing light on the topic, Dr. Santosh Kumar Agarwal, Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Kailash Hospital & Heart Institute, Noidasaid, ‘Although all the cooking oils have almost the same number of calories per tablespoon (102 to 124), the amount of healthy fat known as ‘unsaturated’ fat in each one varies. Oils such as sunflower and corn oil are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and help reduce LDL-C and have better insulin sensitivity. These are highly recommended fats for patients with cardiac diseases. Ready to eat food items should be consumed in moderation given the high level of trans fatty acid that leads to the development of plaque and obesity. One must always remember thatit is prudent to have fat in one’s meals; since it helps the body to absorbvitamins like vitamin A, D, E and K. Fats are a dense source of energyand of the essential fatty acids (EFAs) that the body cannot make. So instead of eliminating edible fats from one’s diet, efforts must be made to consume the foods that are high in healthy fat. In India, the primary source of fats in a person’s diet is the oils we use to cook food. So efforts must be made to choose the right blend of cooking oils for a healthy heart.’ (
One must remember while selecting oils that the fatty acid profile of the oil and the micronutrients, which come along with, are important factors. The preferred cooking medium should beoils with high monounsaturated fat such as groundnut oil, rice bran oil, canola oil, mustard oil, etc. However, since none of the above oils contain appropriate ratios of omega-3 fatty acids, the rotation is necessary. It is also important to note that oil should not be overheated or smoked to prevent it from rancidity and oxidation. Also overheating or frying of oils causes a formation of oxidation products like peroxides, hydroperoxides and secondary products like aldehydes and other volatile compounds which have implication in heart diseases, cancers, etc. Hence, it is important not to reuse the fried oil and recognize the oils best suited for cooking in high temperatures.
Many types of foods like precooked, processed foods, ready to eat snacks contain a lot of fat in them. This is especially true of bakery products like biscuits, cookies, Khari, puff pastries that form an important part of the diet of Indians with their morning and evening tea. Other very rich source of invisible fats is papads, pickles, chutney and other condiments, which are used, liberally in Indian diets and must be consumed in moderate quantities.