These two categories are very important in our diet. Without a doubt, they consist of necessary ingredients for most of our cooking. But these are the two categories which can cause havoc in the body if one doesn't practice moderation.
Sometime ago when the West was struggling with the epidemic of obesity, researchers came to the conclusion, that reducing fat in the diet would help, especially saturated fat. This is not entirely a wrong conclusion but there was another food group which was not given enough attention and that was 'sugars'. As health care professionals started recommending low fat diets, the processed food industry was quick to bring out products of the low-fat variety. But to make these products tasty, they started adding sugar to it. Some of the common ones are corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, invert sugar, sucrose. Most packaged products had and still do have hidden sugar in them. So, although people were consuming low fat products, obesity couldn't be controlled. Newer research then revealed that sugar is a bigger culprit than fat for a lot of conditions. Today obesity and various other related disease is not just a problem of the Western countries . It is something which is spreading all over the world.
In 2015, a new WHO guideline recommends adults and children to reduce their daily sugar intake to less than 10% of their total calorie intake. A further reduction to below 5% per day would provide additional health benefits.
So, if a person is consuming 2000 Kcal per day, then 5% of 2000kcal would be 100kcal which is about 25grams (6 teaspoons) of sugar. These specifications are for free sugars such as table sugar, sugar added by the manufacturer, sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, store bought fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.
These guidelines do not refer to fresh fruits, vegetables, and sugars naturally present in milk.
Now whatever little free sugars that is recommended, we should try and look for healthier options which are available in the market.
3. Unrefined raw sugar.
4. Coconut sugar.
They are all considered heathier since they have far more minerals and vitamins than refined chemically treated sugar. Even better if we can find organic products. But as mentioned above even though they are healthy options, they should be had in limited amounts. Specially for clinical conditions like diabetes, PCOS, even these options need to be taken in limited amounts or as the health care professional advises.
Image courtesy of ( Honey dipper: phasinphoto; Brown and white sugar:nuchylee; Oil: Janpietruszka) at freedigitalphotos.net.
The recommended dietary intake of fat is not more than 30% of the total calories per day. This should include more of unsaturated fat, less than 10% of saturated fat and almost no industrial trans-fat ( The nutritional facts section of the package mentions the presence or absence of trans fats. Vanaspati ghee which is still very popular in some parts of our country has been found to contain high amount of trans fats). To simplify this, I would say ,cook in as minimal oil as possible. It is thought to be better if we use different oils in our diet. For example, certain stir fried vegetables can be made in olive oil, some in mustard oil, some in coconut oil, others in groundnut oil. Sometimes a bit of ghee can be added to your dal or chapatti. This would, of course, also depend on the flavour preference and to which region of the country one belongs to.
Some healthy options of fat are:
1. Mustard oil
2. Groundnut oil
3. Sesame oil
4. Olive oil
5. Desi ghee (clarified butter)
6. Coconut oil
It would be even better, if one can get organic cold pressed or expeller pressed versions of these oils. Since refined oils are highly processed, using various methods, they lose almost all their healthy properties and addition of chemicals make them less safe. Cold pressed oils have been around in the world for a very long time. It's just that we forgot about this process. In India, this system of cold pressing, is known by different names such as 'ghani', 'kolhu', 'chekku'. Though I must say that it is not very easily available. Not in our usual supermarkets. If you do really wish to use cold pressed and expeller pressed oils, there are a few online sites. While buying these oils, buy smaller amounts because it shouldn't be stored for too long as it can lose its properties. Authentic cold pressed oils are sold in opaque or tinted containers/bottles while expeller pressed ones are sold in transparent containers. Although these are healthier options of cooking fats, they need to be used in moderation.For certain clinical conditions such as heart diseases, as the health care professional advises.