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Oils with high PUFA content -- good or bad?

Some things we must consider when buying cooking oils.

A common belief towards buying healthy cooking oil is to choose one which is less in PUFA content. However, this isn't an ideal way to stay healthy, because your body needs PUFA, though in small amounts, to maintain its physiological functions.

What is PUFA?

PUFA in simple terms is called polyunsaturated fat that is obtained from vegetable oils and plant sources. It is one of the important forms of dietary fat essential for the body. Unlike other macro nutrients like glucose, monounsaturated fats and saturated fats, PUFA isn't manufactured in the body and needs to be included through oils and other edible sources. Most vegetable oils are low in PUFA, while animal fats are a mix of monounsaturated, saturated and polyunsaturated fats. Here is how to choose the right cooking oil for you.

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What makes PUFA the bad factor in oils?

PUFAs or polyunsaturated fats are a highly unstable chain of chemicals (or carbon) that can cause harm to the cells and tissues in the body when taken in excess. Inside the body, PUFAs can undergo easy oxidation or bond with proteins and sugars to form toxic end-products. This is one reason why PUFA needs to be consumed in minor quantities, as larger quantities might lead to cell and tissue damage. Here are 13 simple cooking hacks to make your cooking more healthy.

How to include PUFA in your diet the right way?

You cannot neglect PUFA altogether only because of its shortcomings. However, you should know how to keep the ratio between MUFA or monounsaturated fat and PUFA accurate. Most healthy oils, for example, olive oil is rich in MUFA and low in PUFA. Consuming it will rob you of the health benefits of PUFA, explains Dr Bhavi Mody, Vrudhi Homeopathic and Wellness Centre, Mumbai. Read to know if your cooking oil is making you unhealthy.

Ensure that you follow these steps to include PUFA in right amount:

  • If you are using a vegetable oil high in MUFA and low in PUFA, add one teaspoonful of home-made ghee which is rich in PUFA to three teaspoonful of your oil to get the right balance, says Dr Mody.
  • Eat foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, they are the best sources of PUFA when consumed in moderation. The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fish, fish oil, liver and flaxseeds.
  • Limit intake of foods that are rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are rich in PUFA and when consumed in excess, could lead to toxic build-up in the body. The most common sources of omega-6 fatty acids are red meat, nuts, sesame seeds etc.
  • While buying cooking oils read the labels carefully. Always ensure that the ratio of PUFA is less than that of other saturated and monounsaturated fats.

Why is PUFA in excess harmful?

In excess PUFA can:

Disrupt metabolism: Excess PUFA in the body can alter the functioning of the thyroid gland and production of the important hormones which could lead to a sluggish metabolism and disturb the normal physiological cycle of the body. Here are 13 ways to boost your metabolism and lose weight easily.

Affect immune system: PUFA is also known to cause inflammation in the body. Excess inflammation could make one s immunity go down to a great extent.

Increase cholesterol levels: When oils rich in PUFA is consumed in large quantities they also lead to oxidation of LDL cholesterol or lipoproteins that could increase the level of bad cholesterol in the body and lead to heart diseases or clogging of the arteries. Here are eight natural cholesterol busters for you.

Why do you still need PUFA?

It is a form of fat that is essential for the body, in lower amounts, to be able to function to the optimum. This form of fat is essential for absorption of vitamins like vitamin A, D and K, says Dr Mody. PUFA deficiency diseases are very rare but one can be born with PUFA deficiency disease if the parental nutrition is devoid of it.

Note: PUFAs bind with sugar fructose in the body more readily than sugar glucose; hence, avoid having fruits like apple, pear, sugarcane or custard apple after eating foods made in oils rich in PUFA.

Image courtesy: Getty Images


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