It is that time of the year again. It’s RAMADAN!

Every day during the holy month, Muslims make sure to break their fast with a variety of yummy foods. However, unfortunately, most of the times the Iftar meal is composed of heavy meals, oily curries, greasy deep-fried pastry, and deep- fried Arabic sweets. Even certain salads such as the renowned Fattoush contains fried pitta bread!

While it may be tempting to eat what your heart desires and indulge in those traditional meals that are not health-friendly, I invite you hereby to take a minute and think about the consequences of unmindful eating. Not only you willsuffer from indigestion and low energy levels, but also with unwanted weight gain which you will be struggling to get rid of after Ramadan finishes.

Are you now ready to start your health journey during Ramadan? Join me to explore certain health related facts about different oil types, to know which ones

to add to your diet,and how to use them wisely.

When shopping for a healthy oil, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends replacing bad fats (saturated and trans-fats) with healthier fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) – such as canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil.This shall reduce the levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides, both of which are risk factors for the heart disease. Here is a list of some of the healthiest oils:

Oils rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFA):

Olive oil:

Olive oil is the shining star of healthy oils in this group. Many studies have shown that eating olive oil greatly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Choose the extra virgin olive oil as it has slightly more nutrients.

 Avocado oil:

It has some properties as olive oil, plus it has a high smoke point (meaning it is safe to cook at high temperatures). Oils with low smoking points create toxic compounds when overheated (i.e. frying)

Safflower and sunflower oils:

They also contain high amounts of monounsaturated fats and have high smoke points (> 400 degrees)

Oils rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFA):

The AHA states that the corn oil, soybean oil, peanut oil and canola oil contain high amounts of polyunsaturated fats. Canola oil and peanut oil are high in both mono and polyunsaturated fats. Canola is best for baking because it is largely tasteless.
It is worth mentioning here that

moderation in the use of healthy oils is the key since all types of oil are calorie-rich, and thus, excess consumption may promote weight gain especially in the abdominal area. High waist circumference has been linked to increased risk to insulin resistance, impaired liver function, diabetes, and heart disease.

What about Coconut oil? Is the term “Coconut is healthy” considered a fact or a myth?

Lately, coconut oil became highly “trendy” and is used in ample amounts in several baking recipes.
In fact, the AHA considers coconut oil as unhealthy as it is high in saturated fats. Current data shows saturated fats and trans-fat raise bad cholesterol levels.
Nevertheless, there is controversy about coconut oil. Although it is solid at room temperature, it has a high amount of medium-chain fatty acids, which are harder for the body to convert into stored fat. However, the AHA advises those with high cholesterol to avoid coconut because, according to research, it is difficult to get LDL cholesterol into healthy ranges by eating a lot of coconut oil.

 

Finally, as you start your healthy-lifestyle journey this Ramadan on-wards, use healthy fats sparingly as they are high in calories (120 calories per tablespoon). Use liquid vegetable oils or non-fat cooking sprays whenever possible and avoid solid fats (such as butter, shortening, lard and hard stick margarine). Don’t forget that cooking methods matter! Try broiling, microwaving, pressure cooking, steaming or stir-frying because they are all naturally low in fat (they require little or no oil) and they bring out the zest in foods. Start by baking your Ramadan pastry dishes instead of deep-frying them, use thin brown dough and a low-calorie filling, try stir-fried veggies, low fat minced beef, chicken or cheese. Ramadan Kareem.

Author

Jana Hazim
Jana Hazim
Licensed Clinical Dietitian, BSc., MSc. In Human Nutrition (AUB, Lebanon)
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