Let’s Be Realistic About Eating Healthy

Let’s Be Realistic About Eating Healthy

Let’s Be Realistic About Eating Healthy

Instead of over-ambitious food resolutions, small changes in eating habits can make a big difference.

Dr Rajni Chopra 

Setting unrealistic dietary resolutions like zero eating out, zero-packaged foods, et al. are more often than not impossible to keep. Instead, moderation rather than abstinence would to be a more realistic goal to achieve. Our health would be better served by understanding, and then deciding, what we put inside our bodies. Specifically, the ingredients that we must be watchful of are oils and fats—an integral part of Indian cooking.

Oils and fats are used in various recipes—baking/shortening, deep-frying, sautéing, pan-frying, stir-frying, etc. Hence, it’s important to choose the right kind of oils and fats for cooking. After all, the kind of fat and its sources play a major role in defining how healthy or unhealthy a food item is.

Understanding Bad Fats

Half-a-million people die every year due to trans-fats, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) study released in 2019. Trans-fat is the worst kind of fat, and yet it is surprisingly common. Understanding two of its major sources can help you avoid it. Naturally formed trans-fats are found in animal products, including high-fat meat, lamb and full-fat dairy foods.

On the other hand, trans-fats are also formed during the process of partial hydrogenation which is an industrial process to convert unsaturated oils into saturated fat. During this process, vegetable oil, which is liquid at room temperature, is converted into partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is solid at room temperature. As a result, it has better textural properties, better flavour and stability. Some food manufacturers also use partially hydrogenated oils to improve food’s texture, shelf life, flavour and stability in baked foods.

WHO has set in motion a plan to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fat by 2023, citing linkages to increased risk of coronary heart diseases, including mortality. Demonstrating the dangers of trans-fats in an Indian context, an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) report found that our country has the highest number of trans-fat consumption-related deaths—77,000—per year.

Clearly, heart-healthy fats—those of plant and vegetable origin are the way to go. These help to maintain desirable levels of blood lipid profile. Replacing partially hydrogenated fat, saturated fat and fat of animal origin with natural vegetable oils (unsaturated fat) has been linked to a reduced risk of heart problems. Completely refusing street food/outside food or packaged foods is simply impossible for a majority of people.

Healthy, realistic choices

An occasional cookie/mathri, samosa or cupcake with our tea or coffee is not going to harm our health if we have a predominantly healthy diet and lifestyle. It is not going to be possible to practice a completely zero-eating-out policy. Culturally, eating out is often the most common social activity. In both scenarios, we should simply watch out for the sources of trans-fat.

When eating out, understand the way food has been prepared and avoid items that are prepared with reheated used cooking oil (samosa, kachori, cutlets, spring rolls, deep-fried dim sums, fries, etc.). Exercise the same caution when it comes to savoury snack items (e.g. bhujjia, namkeen) and bakery goods (cake puffs, khaari, and naankhatai). Reuse of heated oil for frying, a common street food practice, can increase the trans-fat content of fried products. Trans-fats also enters our diet through snacks like pizzas, burgers, french fries, mathris, etc., for which vanaspati is used as a shortening fat.

When you go shopping, read the labels on the foods you are thinking of buying, and look for options labeled as trans-fat-free. Also, look for foods that use natural vegetable oils (soybean, canola, corn, safflower and sunflower oils). When shopping for cookies, frozen desserts, chocolates, snacks and bakery items add to your shopping cart only items that are made from vegetable oil/fat and are not fried or cooked in hydrogenated vegetable oil or vanaspati or fat of animal origin.

When compared to more ambitious food resolutions, these changes may seem small but that is what makes them achievable. And, in the long run, they can have a significant impact on your heart health.


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Say NO to trans fat to live with a healthy heart

Say NO to trans fat to live with a healthy heart

Say NO to trans fat to live with a healthy heart

For years only nutritionists and cardiologists knew about trans fats – the meanest of all fats. This fat is the heart’s worst enemy and different research starting from the early 1990s raised the alarm bell for the harmful effects of trans fats which are also known as partially hydrogenated oils. On this World Heart Day, when the world is already reeling under a pandemic, we cannot afford an impending one – coronary heart disease, whose effects could be as threatening as the current one.

Over the years, several studies have shown an association of Trans Fatty Acids (TFA) with increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). This is because TFA increases the level of LDL which is bad cholesterol and decreases the level of HDL or good cholesterol. The situation gets aggravated for elderly people who have other co-morbidities. Dr Col Sitaram, Cardiologist, Apollo Secunderabad, suggests elderly citizens who have some form of heart ailments to have a nutritious meal with adequate proteins. He also suggests to “avoid having snacks that are fried in oil because they may contain a lot of trans fats which are bad for your arteries.” Dr Rajeev Gupta, Professor Cardiology, Gandhi Medical College, Bhopal also advises all to have a ‘trans fat free diet’ as it will have a positive long term effect in protecting our hearts and arteries.

If we look back, we will see WHO had already warned countries on devastating health consequences NCDs (non-communicable diseases) pose ‘for individuals, families and communities, and threatens to overwhelm health systems and one of the leading NCD in India is cardiovascular diseases. The socioeconomic costs associated with NCDs make the prevention and control of these diseases a major development imperative for the 21st century.’ Noncommunicable diseases account for almost 70 per cent of all deaths worldwide.

Moreover, heart ailments are linked to several factors which includes hypertension, tobacco and diet. A number of studies both in India and in the US has shown that heart ailments have a direct link with the intake of trans fatty acids (TFA).

Why trans fat?

Notably, partially hydrogenated oils were first introduced into the food supply in the early 20th century as a replacement for butter and became more popular in the 1950s. Industrially produced trans fatty acids are convenient, cheap and last a long time. Trans fats give foods a desirable taste and texture which is loved by many. Many restaurants and fast-food outlets use trans fats to deep-fry foods because oils with trans fats can be used many times in commercial businesses.

According to a study named-‘The Changing Patterns of Cardiovascular Diseases and Their Risk Factors in the States of India: the Global burden of Disease Study 1990-2016’, deaths due to cardiovascular diseases in India increased from 1.3 million in 1990 to 2.8 million in 2016. In another study of September 2018, published by the Lancet, cardiac diseases killed more Indians in 2016 (28 per cent) than any other non-communicable disease.

WHO has flagged off this as a major disaster for the future and its control program REPLACE lists out the basic control measures. Food Regulator in India Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has also issued a draft notification on eliminating chemical trans fats in food by 2022. India has already successfully limited its trans fat content in fats and oils by has 5 percent and declared that it plans to implement a cap of 2 percent by 2022, a year ahead of the WHO deadline. With this, let’s hope the much-needed awareness related to this deadly fat reaches farther and to the remotest part of the country.

Workshop on Trans Fats with Government School Teachers in Mayur Vihar

Workshop on Trans Fats with Government School Teachers in Mayur Vihar

Workshop on Tans Fats with Government School Teachers in Mayur Vihar

Consumer VOICE, a leading consumer organisation working for the protection of consumer issues, is campaigning at different levels for the elimination of trans fats from food in India. As part of this campaign, Consumer VOICE reached out to Government Co-education School, in Mayur Vihar Phase I,  Delhi to sensitise school teachers on the harmful effects of trans fats.

Mr Paramjeet Singh, Director – Research, along with Hemant Upadhyay, Technical Head, interacted with the Head of the School, Mr Amit Kumar on this issue. Later on Mr Paramjeet Singh gave a presentation which was attended by 42 school teachers and other staff members highlighting the importance of avoiding trans fat in foods. He also pointed out that it is important for all to understand the adverse effects of consuming trans fat laden foods especially during Diwali as the consumption of sweets and savouries increase during festival times. The presentation also enlightened the teachers and staff on how to read the nutrition label and understand the permissible quantity of trans fats label in packaged items.

Mr Paramjeet also explained about the amount of fat a body requires and its usefulness. He elaborated the difference between natural trans fats found in food items such as milk and meat items are not harmful and that of artificial transfats generally found in Vanaspati oil which are harmful and should not be consumed.  Teachers were also made aware about how Transfats are responsible of Non- Communicable Diseases and Cardio Vascular Diseases.

Mr Paramjeet Singh also highlighted the importance of campaign and various activities undertaken by Consumer Voice in order to sensitize other stakeholders such as media, regulators, Industry and Health specialists. At end of the program teachers were shown various IEC materials which can be used for generating awareness among their students. All the IEC materials, which included posters will be displayed at important places in the school and pamphlets and stickers to be distributed in the classrooms, were handed over to the Vice Principle of the schools.

Hypertension – How to say goodbye to hypertension

Hypertension – How to say goodbye to hypertension

Hypertension – How to say goodbye to hypertension

Hypertension which is a lifestyle disease is now rampant in many countries. It is usually a result of excessive intake of saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids, along with higher consumption of salt and sugar. All these collectively increase the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases including hypertension. . Hypertension is a condition associated with increased risk for stroke, cardiac failure, renal failure and peripheral vascular disease.

Here are some facts about hypertension that are listed by WHO

  • Hypertension is a major cause of premature death worldwide.
  • In 2015, 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women had hypertension.
  • Fewer than 1 in 5 people with hypertension have the problem under control.
  • One of the global targets for non-communicable diseases is to reduce the prevalence of hypertension by 25% by 2025 (baseline 2010).

(ref: https://www.who.int/news-room)

Some of the important factors that contribute to increased risk of hypertension are unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. People who are insufficiently physically active have a 20–30% increased risk of all-cause mortality compared to those who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity.
(Source: https://www.who.int/nmh/publications/ncd_report_chapter1.pdf)

How can we reduce hypertension?

Hypertension needs to be checked to reduce mortality rate. One of the best ways of doing so is having a healthy diet through managing weight, limiting alcohol and sodium intake, and increasing consumption of vegetable, fruit, whole grain and low-fat dairy products.

Early intervention

Keeping hypertension at bay begins as early as the breastfeeding stage. It has been seen that adults who were breastfed as babies often have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol, as well as lower rates of overweight, obesity and type 2 diabetes as compared to those who weren’t.

Reduce salt intake

One should limit salt intake to not more than 5 grams of salt per day can which can result in a decline in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure of > 10 mmHg.

Reducing fat intake

Avoid animal fat, stick margarine, vegetable shortenings and commercial bakery and deep-fried foods. All these foods is said to contain trans fat which increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Reduce fat intake in general and avoid eating food rich in animal fat, such as red meat, processed meat and butter, and eat olive oil and fish oil instead.

Managing Stress

When one experiences stress, he or she is more likely to engage in other behaviors, such as increased consumption alcohol or eating unhealthy food. This can adversely affect blood pressure.

Several studies have explored how reducing stress can help lower blood pressure.

Listening to soothing music

Calming music can help relax your nervous system. Research has shown it’s an effective complement to other blood pressure therapies.

Work less

Working a lot, and under stressful circumstances can lead to high blood pressure.

Quit Smoking

Every puff of cigarette smoke causes a slight, temporary increase in blood pressure. Smoking is not only makes people prone to cancer but also increases the blood pressure level.

Weight management

Maintain a healthy body weight (For most adults, an ideal body mass index is in the range of18.5 to 24.9 ). Exercising regularly is a good way of keeping body weight in control.

Also Read:

Daily Food Intake
Avoid these 5 foods which are rich in trans fat

Take note of your daily food intake

Take note of your daily food intake

Take note of your daily food intake

Richa Pande

All fats are not necessarily harmful. Some fats are vital for human well being. Cooking oils and solid fats together are referred to as ‘fats’ (Source: Dietary Guidelines, NIN). They can be classified as saturated fats and unsaturated fats. The difference between good and bad fat is in their biochemical structure. Physically, most of the saturated fats tend to remain solid at the room temperature and unsaturated fats stay in a liquid state. Mono Unsaturated Fats (MUFA) and Poly Unsaturated fats (PUFA) have been classified as “Good Fats” as they have proven health benefits. And saturated fats trans fats are known as “Bad Fats” as they are associated with major health concerns including cardiovascular diseases. Omega-3 fats (a type of PUFA) are relatively healthier than other types of PUFAs and MUFAs. FSSAI, the food regulatory body of India has taken an initiative to eliminate trans fats from the food industry by 2022. WHO also has launched a program by the name of “Replace” to eliminate industrially produced trans fat from national food supplies, with the goal of global elimination by 2023.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) or the naturally occurring trans fats

Some trans fats occur naturally. They are derived from ruminants and thus they occur in dairy and some meat products. This includes beef, lamb and goat meat, and butterfat. CLA is marketed as a dietary supplement for its anti-cancer properties and is also used by bodybuilders. This does not mean that they could be consumed freely as CLAs are also known to cause internal inflammation which is interlinked with a lot of health ailments.


The table below summarizes the sources of different type of fats, their origin, and impact on health

Type of fatty acidCharacteristicsFood Source(Found in them in good amount)Health Impacts
MonounsaturatedMost of them are liquid at room temperatureOlives (black & green), peanuts, canola oils, avocados, almonds, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seedsIncreases HDL which is the ‘good cholesterol’. Lowers LDL which is the ‘bad cholesterol’. It lowers blood pressure, improves blood lipid levels, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
PolyunsaturatedSunflower oil, maize oil, soya bean oil, flaxseed oil, walnuts, flax seeds, fish, canola oilIncreases HDL which is the ‘good cholesterol’. Lowers LDL which is the ‘bad cholesterol’.
SaturatedMost of them are solid at room temperatureButter, ghee, cheese, ice-cream, chocolates, coconut oil, coconut milk, red meat, desserts, etc.Increases total cholesterol levels. Lowers HDL which is the ‘good cholesterol'. Increases LDL which is the ‘bad cholesterol’.
Trans FatsMargarine, vanaspati, vegetable shortening, hydrogenated vegetable oil, partially hydrogenated oils. * Because of its stable shelf-life, they are extensively used by fast foods restaurants and by industries to manufacture packet food itemsIncreases total cholesterol levels. Lowers HDL which is the ‘good cholesterol'. Increases LDL which is the ‘bad cholesterol’. Increases insulin resistance which impacts the blood glucose levels. It causes internal inflammation, which is associated with heart diseases and is also associated with cancer.

* Note- Omega-3 fats are of three types- A) Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA);  B) Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); & C) Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). EPA & DHA come mainly from fish. ALA is found in oilseeds and nuts (especially walnuts&  flaxseed, oils like sunflower, canola & soya bean.  ALA  is assimilated by the body for energy and its conversion by the body into EPA and DHA is limited.

How to Keep Trans Fats at Bay

The following checklist is a sure help for consumers who want to avoid trans fats in their daily food consumption:

  • Read the food label carefully.
  • Check the ingredient list. Do not purchase a food product that has hydrogenated fats in them.
  • Check for the trans-fat-free logo on the food label. FSSAI has launched an initiative through which consumers can identify trans-fat-free food items. However, for food manufacturers, this is voluntary participation. On the other hand, a trans-fat-free logo can be displayed by sweet shops/ bakeries/ local food outlets that prepare food items without trans fats or have preparations that have less than 0.2 g of trans fats per 100 g/ 100 ml of the food.
  • Choose liquid vegetable oils over solid fat for preparing food items.
  • Limit the consumption of commercially prepared baked foods like biscuits cookies, pies, snacks, etc. Choose food from a trans-fat-free food outlet.
  • Limit the consumption of deep-fried foods as many restaurants use partially hydrogenated oils. Choose food from a trans-fat-free food outlet.
  • Food labels in India could be labeled as “trans-fat-free”, only if they have 0.2 g of trans fats per 100 g/ 100 ml of the food item. Trans-fat-free does not mean that the food does not have any amount of trans fats. Portion size must be kept in mind while consuming such food items.



Repeated reheating of oil can increase the trans fats content of the oil. Because:

  • Unsaturated fats are repeatedly heated
  • Unstable bonds in unsaturated fats are broken after being exposed to heart an oxidation
  • Stable bonds are formed turning unsaturated fats into trans fats

*Note that stir-frying increases the formation of trans fatty acids, relatively more than any other method. Deep frying at high temperature and repeated usage of cooking oil after reheating it also produce trans fats.

Also Read:

How to reduce Hypertension
Avoid these 5 foods which are rich in trans fat

Want to keep your heart safe? It’s time to avoid these 5 foods rich in trans fat

Want to keep your heart safe? It’s time to avoid these 5 foods rich in trans fat

Want to keep your heart safe? It’s time to avoid these 5 foods rich in trans fat

Did you know that the samosa or the kachori that is home made could be more harmful than you thought? Are you shocked? Here are more reasons to get shocked. Vanaspati and reused oils that you use could actually result in cardiovascular diseases and you might not even get to know for several years!  All these fat and oils are rich in trans fats which are bad for your heart as it increases LDL or bad cholesterol and also decreases HDL or good cholesterol and makes you prone to heart problems.

India too has taken its first steps towards eliminating trans fat from its foods. As per Draft Notifications of FSSAI, the Indian Food Safety Regulator, limit of trans fats in the fats / oils will be not more than 3% by weight on and from January 01, 2021 and not more than 2% by weight on and from January 01, 2022. On and from January 01, 2022, food products in which edible oils and fats are used as an ingredient shall not contain trans fats more than 2% by weight of the total fats / oils present in the product.

Here are top 5 foods that you should start avoiding now!

Samosas, kachodis and pakodas – A monsoon evening in an Indian home is incomplete without a plateful of pakodas and samosas along with a cup of adrak ki chai (ginger tea). But did you know that though you might be enjoying that samosa, your level of bad cholesterol could be increasing as well.  That samosa could be made of vanaspati ghee or reused oil which is high in trans fats.

Microwave popcorn – Well what about this harmless popcorn? Popcorn in itself is harmless, but microwave popcorn contains partially hydrogenated oils to keep the oil solid until the popcorn bag is microwaved. Partially hydrogenated oils are also high in trans fats.

French Fries – Burgers and French fries have now flooded the Indian markets in a big way. They are easily available and have been Indianised to suit Indian taste buds. Most takeaway chains may use fat, oils which is rich in trans fats to enhance the taste and shelf life. Furthermore, high cooking temperatures used during frying can cause the trans fats content of the oil to increase slightly.

Cakes and Pastries – Baked products including your birthday cakes are mostly made with margarine which produce a flakier, softer pastry. It’s also cheaper and has a longer shelf life than butter. Margarine is also high in trans fats.

Frozen foods –Frozen foods may also use vanaspati ghee, margarine, partially hydrogenated oils which are high in trans fats to increase the shelf life. It is important to check the labels before you buy such products, if you cannot avoid it completely.

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