A Harvard University-backed EAT Lancet report released earlier this year identified a ‘Planetary Health Diet’ that stated that total consumptions of oils & fats should be restricted to about 10 teaspoons/day which includes visible fat from home cooked food and invisible fat from local eateries and packaged food. As per report, more than half of fat/oil, needs to be sourced from variety of unsaturated fats/oils provided by vegetable sources. While the report focuses on balanced and wholesome diet concept which includes whole grains, plant proteins (beans, lentils, pulses), some meat & dairy and fruit, and vegetables – favoring traditional Indian diet but emphasis on plant-based fats is notable. It highlights that a diet rich in plant-based foods with fewer foods from animal sources, confers improved health as well as environmental benefits.
For example, replacing butter (saturated fat) with sunflower oil (unsaturated fat), reduces bad cholesterol levels in the blood and minimizes the risk of heart disease and stroke. Moreover, majority of the vegetable oils in India are fortified with vitamins, including Vitamin A &D, which are essential for enhancing overall health and well-being.
Senior dietician Dr Anuja Agarwala said that trans-fatty acids is one of the most harmful kind of fats that are a primary cause of heart disease and strokes globally. Trans-fatty acids is typically derived from 2 sources - Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil and from animal sources. Evidence shows that both industrial and animal derived TFA adversely affect the blood cholesterol profile and hence, increase the risk of heart problems.
FSSAI has recently launched a campaign to make consumers aware of the pitfalls of consumer foods with high levels of trans-fat, while working with the stakeholders to eliminate industrially generated TFA from the Indian food system by 2022, a year ahead of the World Health Organization’s target for the world to be TFA-free.
“In fact, this aligns well with the attitude of the world today. Globally, plant-based diets are being adopted for reasons much beyond nutrition – plant-based diets are kinder on the planet. Health authorities, including those in the USA, the Netherlands, and Nordic countries explicitly recommend a largely plant-based diet over an animal-based diet. Plant-based diets can help reduce the carbon footprint of our food as more than 50% of food related greenhouse gas emissions come from animal products. This emphasis on ‘planet health’ is what makes a plant-based diet a truly holistic one,” added dietician Dr Anuja.
As conscious consumers, switching to a healthier alternative is easy. Take a minute from your hurried shopping routines to glance at the ingredients of the products you purchase. Prioritize products that are healthier for your heart. Replace products with trans-fat & high saturated fat with vegetable oil-based foods which has good quality fat. Choose foods such as salad dressings made with recommended oils (soybean, rapeseed, mustard, groundnut/peanut, rice-bran, olive, coconut, corn, safflower and sunflower oils); oil-based cookies & biscuits; non-dairy fat-based ice-cream/frozen desserts and chocolates; roasted snacks & bakery items that are not fried or cooked in Vanaspati. These simple yet significant dietary changes not only impact one’s health positively, but also contribute to reducing the stress on the environment.