We are all told that fat in foods are not exactly good for health. We are told that fat in foods leads to obesity, high blood sugar levels , high cholesterol, and heart diseases. This is true; however, many people tend to keep fatty foods away from their diabetic diet and end up losing essential fatty acids.
It is accepted that a diet rich in fatty foods causes high blood sugar levels. It is also accepted that high sugar content in foods and sodas can also lead to high blood sugar levels. Yet, without maintaining a balance and without choosing the right foods, one can end up having serious nutritional deficiencies.
Diabetes and Fat Intake – What is fat?
Fat is a form of oil that occurs in foods and in the body. Fats are essential for functioning of the body by providing energy, and cushioning vital organs from injury. They assist in producing vitamins like vitamin A, D, E, and K. Fats called essential fatty acids improve brain and heart function, and aid better immunity.
As fats tend to improve the taste of foods, people tend to have a craving for fatty foods, but the choice of fats is important. There are good fats and bad fats.
Unhealthy Fats (Bad fats)
Bad fats are called saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fats increase the levels of LDL (low density cholesterol) and triglycerides. These fats can increase the risk of obesity, and heart diseases.
Sources of Saturated fats:
- Dairy products like milk, butter, ghee, and cheese.
- Meat products including chicken with skin, fat cuts of meat, and animal fat.
- Coconut oil.
- Palm oil.
- Baked products like biscuits, and pastries.
- Deep fried foods.
Trans fats are artificially synthesized. They are made industrially. These fats are harmful for the body. They increase bad cholesterol (LDL) and decrease good cholesterol (high density cholesterol). Trans fats increase the risk of heart diseases and coronary artery disease multifold.
Sources of Trans fats:
- Cakes with frosting.
- Manufactured pastries and cookies.
- Crackers and Biscuits.
- Candies with cream.
- Fried foods like potato chips and other fries.
- Microwave popcorn.
- Frozen foods and drinks.
- Non-dairy cream.
- Fats derived from animal products.
Healthy fats (Good fats)
Good fats are those fats that contain unsaturated fats. These are good for health and promote levels of high density cholesterol which is good for heart.
Unsaturated fats contain monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Both these reduce the levels of bad cholesterol and increase levels of good cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fats contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
A diabetic diet with good balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids has numerous benefits. An ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is known to be 4:1. Experts feel that this ratio should change depending upon the disease condition a person suffers from in order to have beneficial effects.
Benefits of omega-6 fatty acids:
Omega-6 fatty acids have been clinically proven to have various benefits apart from reduction in risk of heart diseases and promoting heart health. In some studies, it is known to:
- Reduce nerve pain in diabetic neuropathy
- Increase in bone density in people with osteoporosis.
- Reduce tenderness and breast pain.
- Decrease menopausal symptoms.
- Reduce risk of hypertension.
- Alleviate symptoms of eczema.
- Better drug response in breast cancer.
Sources of Omega-6 fatty acids:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Whole grain bread
- Oils like flax oil, hemp oil, canola oil, and other vegetable oils
Note: Restrict omega-6 fatty acids to a healthy level as they have certain ill effects. Some omega-6 fatty acids are known to promote inflammation and are linked to arthritis, and cancer. They can also interfere with health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. As mentioned earlier, ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is very important.
Omega-3 fatty acids on the other hand cannot be made by the body. We have to get them from food sources. These are good for health and have numerous benefits.
If you have a deficit of omega-3 fatty acids, you may feel tired and fatigued and are likely to have heart problems, dry skin, and erratic mood swings.
Benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids
- Promotes heart and brain function.
- Promotes memory and behavioral function.
- Reduces inflammation.
- Reduces hypertension.
- Decreases bad cholesterol.
- Reduces risk of heart disease.
- Lowers triglycerides in people with diabetes.
They are also known to help people with psychiatric disorders, osteoporosis, skin problems, and inflammatory bowel disease as per some studies.
Sources of Omega-3 fatty acids
- Chia seeds
- Radish seeds
- Nuts like almonds and walnuts
- Wild rice
- Fortified milk
- Fish like salmon and mackerel
- Cod liver oil
- Olive oil
Omega-9 fatty acids are also not produced by the body, but they are not exactly fatty acids. However, they are beneficial for heart health, and prevention of stroke. They reduce bad cholesterol and promote good cholesterol.
Omega-9 fatty acids sources
- Sesame oil
- Nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, and macadamia nuts.
- Extra virgin olive oil
Including omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 foods in your diabetic diet will improve your diabetes control and reduce risks of heart diseases.