We should maintain healthy cholesterol levels right from a young age. As a population Indians are predisposed to heart diseases, and with changing lifestyles and the lack of physical activity even in children, we are now dealing with many of these conditions at a much younger age. We have 11-year-olds with adultonset diabetes and many teens dealing with cholesterol issues!
Bad fats: Saturated fat and trans fat increase the bad cholesterol in the body. Saturated fat is present in dairy productslike full fat milk, butter, cheese, ghee, paneer, red meats (mutton, beef, pork and organ meats), and tropical oils like coconut and palm. Milk is essential for children,so switch to double-toned/low fat milk or skim the fat in regular milk. While a small spoon of ghee will do no harm, using ghee liberally is an over kill. Butter, cheese and paneer are hot favourites among children. Although the amount of fat in a serving of butter (10 g) and cheese (1 slice) are the same, cheese is a lesser evil as it is also a good source of protein and calcium. Low fat paneer made at home using low fat milk is a healthier alternative to regular paneer. Margarines made from plant oils have less bad fat compared to butter, but do check the nutrition facts of the margarine you buy for your family.
Trans fat is the uglier of the two as it not only increases the bad cholesterol but also decreases the good cholesterol!They are formed when vegetable oils are industrially hardened to give a fat which has a texture similar to butter. In India, this is popularly known as vanaspati, used as a cheaper substitute for ghee. Thoughthe use of vanaspati has decreased in urban homes because of increased awareness, these fats are still very popular and used extensively in the bakery and fast food industries as they have a long shelf life and stability for baking and repeated frying. Products from local bakeries such as biscuits and pastries, street foods, fried snacks and fast foodsare usually high in this ugly fat. Hence, reduce your child’s consumption of these foods, and try to make fried snacks and short eats at home to control the oil/ fat intake.
Good Fats: Good fats have a favourable impact on cholesterol level. The two types of good fatsare mono (MUFA) and poly (PUFA) unsaturated fats. Both help to decrease the bad cholesterol (LDL) in the body. There is an ongoing debate in the science courtroomson which one is better, but there has been no final consensus yet. Mono unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) are in the news after many studies have shown that the dietary habits of people in Spain, Greece, Italy and other Mediterranean countries appear to make them less prone to heart disease. Popularly known as the Mediterranean diet, its principal aspects include high consumption of olive oil, legumes, fruits, vegetables and fish; moderate consumption of dairy products and wine; and low consumption of meat and meat products. So it is important to understand that olive oil alone cannot do the trick — you need the whole diet! Many companies in India advocate olive oil but some of our home-grown oils like ground nut, sesame and rice bran are equally good sources of MUFA. Rice bran oil especially is good for frying as it provides better heat stability.