Fat is an essential part of our daily diet. 25-30% of the total calorie should come from fat, of which, less than 10% from Saturated Fat. Animal meat, butter and lard - the solid version of Triglycerides are some of the primary source for Fat, while oil, the liquid version is derived from plants-canola, peanut, coconut, and olive oil.
Our survival depends on fat, and the health benefits with controlled intake are plenty. If you want skin elasticity and suppleness, lustrous hair, lubrication of joints, and the maintenance of your body temperature, don’t cut out on the ‘good’ fats. Also fat allows essential vitamins A, D, E, and K to be absorbed and utilized by our body.
Now that you understood the value of fat let us find out why adding it makes your food tastier. First, when oil is used as a cooking medium, let’s say frying, it fuels the rise in temperature, something that water cannot do. Typical oils have smoke points in the range of 160- 250 °C depending on the type of oil used. This allows the cooking temperature to be around 120 °C; a temperature range that favors browning or surface caramelization, giving a typical enriched roasted flavor.
When you choose cooking oil for frying, select lighter-colored refined oils as they have higher smoke points and lesser impurities. Don’t reheat or reuse oils that have been used for deep-frying. The longer the exposure of the oil to heat, the lower the smoke points; leading to fast breakdown of oil, making it harmful for consumption.
Secondly, fat affects the texture of the food enhancing the aroma and the taste. With fat, you can maintain a higher cooking temperature - ideal for the surface of the meat or vegetables to lose moisture, and turn crisp and browned on the outside, but moist and tender on the inside. By absorbing the concentrated flavor and aroma molecules, fat pleasures the taste buds by dispersing them evenly.
Until recently, it was believed that our taste buds can only taste sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami (savory) flavors but a recent research shows that our taste buds have CD36 protein that can taste fat too. When our brains pick the aroma and taste of fat, it triggers the release of endorphins and dopamine, elevating our mood, similar to the high a cocaine addict feels after a shot. Fat as such is not addictive, but the combination of fat with sugar seen in Ice Creams and Chocolates are addictive.
The smooth texture of cream based recipes (vegetable korma, butter chicken) is due to the higher percentage of fat in Cream that offers a good medium for homogenous mixing of sugar and starches. Higher fat content also allows cooking the dishes at high temperature in the presence of Salt or Acidic ingredients without the fear of splitting or curdling. The result - a full-bodied, tasty, creamy and crunchy dish that is hard to resist.
If you cannot resist food high in fat content, cut your first morning meal by half and eat your fried food along with it or as a meal later in the afternoon. Avoid having fatty treats with other food items high in glycemic index. This can increase the glycemic load of the total meal and lead to higher chances of converting it into fat. Exercise portion-control and restrict such treats to once a week/month along with regular exercise, and enjoy the full benefits of fat without getting fat.