Fat appears in the diet in two forms: as a single element in the form of oil, butter or lard, or coupled with protein as part of natural foodstuffs (meat, cheese, avocado, nuts, seeds and whole grains). Fats are building foods, especially those containing a greater quantity of saturated fats.
Fats and oils are satisfying and creamy in texture. Fat carries flavor and is what makes foods delicious. ‘Oily’ is one of the twenty main therapeutic properties called ‘gunas’ in Ayurveda. The Sanskrit word for oily is SNEHA, which is synonymous for the words Sturdiness and Love. As such, fats and oils have a psychological calming effect on the mind. Biologically, fat is the carrier for the fat soluble vitamins A,D,E and K, as well as the source of essential fatty acids necessary for proper cell function, hormones and nerve function. Fat is a source of energy, and its presence frees up protein for tissue repair. Fats from animal source supply cholesterol which is a fundamental element in all cells and plays an extremely important role in metabolic functions and overall health.
Benefits of fats and oils
Fats and oils are nourishing and prevent dryness. They are good for conditions of cold and excess motion, either mental or physical. Fall, from September through December is the best time of year to eat oils. By eating oils this time of year, you help your body store fat that prevents dryness of body tissues and insulates you from the cold. The metabolism of fats create body heat, and since they pack twice as many calories per gram as protein or carbohydrate, a high fat diet helps maintain normal body temperature in cold weather better than a high protein or a high starch diet could. Spring, from February through June, is the time of the year to minimize consumption of fats and oils, as your body is naturally purging fats.
The right amount and quality of fats and oils will keep the skin smooth, eyes bright, body temperature comfortable and general disposition warm and friendly.
The best fats and oils for each dosha
Vata: sesame oil and seeds, olive oil, ghee, nuts and almonds, fat of meat
Pitta: ghee, butter, coconut oil, almonds, avocado
Kapha: Sunflower oil, corn oil, mustard oil, sesame oil, pumpkin seeds
Cooking with fats and Oils
Heat fats and oils rather slowly to prevent burning them. Once the oil in the pan starts to smoke, remove the pan from heat immediately. Overheating oil beyond the smoke point causes chemical changes which are toxic to the body.
Deep fried food is rarely a healthy choice. Although for some it is definitely delicious, the oil is deranged and unhealthy. As the food is fried, the moisture sizzles out of the food making it dry, crispy and heavy, and a big problem for the liver.
For baking the best fat is sweet raw butter. Whole wheat cookies made with oil taste heavy, whereas the same cookies made with butter taste light.
Avoid consumption of processed vegetable oils, including hydrogenated vegetable fats such as margarine
Too much or too little fat
The body can deal with excess fat input in either two ways: by excreting it or by accumulating it. Excretion can be done through normal channels, or through the skin, scalp or mucus membranes. Skin growths and pimples are a common reaction to the high fat content in cheese, butter, nuts etc. accumulation can cause obesity, fatty deposits in the arteries and in the internal organs. Fat accumulated serves as a body library absorbing all kinds of medications, drugs and undigested emotions. When dieting, once fat begins to breakdown and purge, one can experience symptoms of the stored chemicals that are released to the blood, and experience emotions from the time the fat was accumulated. A sharp transition to a fat free diet will cause a traffic jam of fatty acids in the liver. An excess of fats causes inner body heat, and can also slow the circulation and clog the capillaries, thereby causing cold extremities. When too much fat accumulates around the organs, body functions slow down due to a blockage of the flow of fluids and energy. Too much fat will make us dull and slow. Excess fat can also be associated with dry skin, dandruff, fissures and scaling, when fat prevents moisture within the body from passing through the upper layer of the epidermis.
A deficiency of fats can create a sensation of inner cold; body functions slow down for lack of warmth, and the tissues grow brittle. Too little fat will make us joyless and cold. Either too much or too little fat result in the same effect; a slowing down of the metabolism.
Store oils in a cool and dry place. Oils should not be stored where they will be exposed to light, heat, or oxygen, which can turn the oils rancid. Rancid oils have an unpleasant aroma and acrid taste. Rancidity involves oxidation of the polyunsaturated fatty acids, which then results in the formation of free radicals that are associated with the development of cancer, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, stroke and premature aging.