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Oils & fats: Considered unhealthy, but have many benefits
Tuesday, 31 December, 2019, 13 : 00 PM [IST]
Dr Preeti Birwal
Fat and oil are two words with lot of criticism. These can be described as a health food for young ones and a source for many lifestyle diseases. There are many pros as well as cons.

Though fat and oil are considered as unhealthy food at several stages of age, but there are many benefits which cannot be ignored. Fats and oils act as energy for the human body and are very important dietary components. Many essential fatty acids are important for biological functions and membranes formation. They also act as thermal insulators and provide shape and metabolism to the human body. With benefits there are relationship of fat and oil with tradition and religion.  Some diseases like cardiovascular, diabetes, atherosclerosis, hyperlipoproteinemia, diabetes mellitus, fatty liver, lipid storage diseases and the most common obesity are caused by excess fat consumption.

The incidence has led to the exploration of optimum intake analysis. A balance of all fat, carbohydrates and protein is required for a healthy lifestyle. The major source of fat and oil is plant. Few animals sourced are also being consumed on daily basis by Indians population like ghee. These are present in different forms like saturated and unsaturated (mono and poly).

In all the mentioned fat, saturated fats are the reason for high risk of cardiovascular diseases which include heart attack. This fat is commonly found in ready-to-eat foods, fast foods, milk drinks and other bakery and confectionery foods. To reduce the blood cholesterol level both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and oils are important.

Fat and oil are solvent-specific and insoluble in water. There are many types of oils and fats  present in the market and being consumed on daily basis like milk butter, cocoa butter, cream, canola oil, corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, cottonseed oil, lard, palm oil, beef tallow, rapeseed oil and coconut oil. In these oils the safflower oil is highly poly saturated, olive oil is highly monosaturated and coconut oil is highly saturated. Oil and fat are marketed in dry and liquid form and with different functions.

Oil and fat play very important role in food processing like emulsifier. Generally, fat and oil are insoluble in water and form two layers on mixing and shaking. However, they can form emulsions in the presence of emulsifying agents. Texturing of food is another important functional property of fat and oil. Flavour and organoleptic desirability are being provided to food by fat and oil. Fat and oil are majorly used in chocolate & confectionery industry, processed food industries. Bakery products are other customers having high demands of fat and oils.

As India is having world’s second-largest population with young generation, the demand of oil and fat in the form of different food products is very high. In this regard, oil and fat industries are growing remarkably very fast. India is one of the largest importers of oil as well. Huge growth in import of palm oil is reported in India. India fats & oils market is projected to grow at a CAGR of over 6% during 2019-2024. Middle-class population is playing huge role in growth of this sector. A demand of processed, bakery and dairy products is parallelly contributing to the oil and fat industry. Some of the leading players are Amul, Cargill, AAK Kamani and Parisons Group. In all the oils, few are important and trending in today’s generation.

Sunflower Oil
Highly consumed in India. A rich source of vitamin E, sunflower oil is also a rich source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. At industrial level, the sunflower oil is used for manufacturing almost all kinds of foods like snacks, cookies and also for ready-to-eat foods. Deep frying is very common with sunflower oil as it is having very high smoke point. Sustainability is good at all the levels.

Coconut Oil
Very rich source of nutrients and recently called as superfood. Highly utilised in the southern part of India. Daily snacks, fried items and day to day cooking, everywhere coconut oil is being used. Though coconut oil has high risk of cholesterol but still considered as one of the best oil to eat and deal with.

Canola Oil
Much in trend and highly preferable by diet-conscious people. The market of canola oil is recently growing as it is considered as one of the healthy oils for consumption. With all other nutritional benefits, canola oil is being preferred due to existence of Omega 3 fatty acids in it.

Olive Oil
This is a name one can hear all around. In supermarkets, advertisements, health experts, skin experts and dietitians everyone is talking about olive oil. An oil which prevents heart disease, different types of cancers. Olive oil is also consumed in raw form in salads and other breakfasts.

Rice Bran Oil
An oil which complements the byproduct utilisation, obtained from rice grain. In southern part and eastern part of India the consumption of rice bran oil is much higher. For spiritual activities also rice bran oil is considered good. Very rich and called as healthiest oil in the world as this oil is good for cholesterol. Used in bakery industries as the smoking point is pretty high.

Avocado Oil
A famous fruit with a very different flavour, with high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E. Very good for raw consumption utilised on salads.

(The author is assistant research engineer, Department of Processing and Food Engineering, Punjab Agricultural University, Punjab. She can be contacted at
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