How much fat can diabetics safely consume?

Fats may have a bad reputation when it comes to health but their indispensable contribution to making a diet ‘balanced‘ cannot be ignored. Experts note that fat is a major fuel source for our body and is required for it to work at an optimum level. However, is it safe for diabetics?

According to Dr Priyanka Rohatgi, Chief Clinical Dietician, Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore, fats have a significant role in modifying insulin sensitivity. “Mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated acids improve metabolic mediators and plateau the spikes of blood sugars,” she said.

Agreeing, Dr Ritesh Gupta, Director – Diabetes and Endocrinology, Fortis C-Doc Hospital, New Delhi, said that “fats are one of the major macronutrients in diet and are an essential component of a balanced diet in people with diabetes”. However, one shouldn’t assume that increased fat consumption is linked to controlled blood sugar levels, he warned. “Total quantity of fats should be such that the total calories during the day do not exceed the prescribed limit,” he added.

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How can dietary fats affect diabetics?

According to experts, overconsumption of fats may cause you to consume more calories than your body requires, resulting in weight gain, poor diabetes management, and overall damage to health.

“The type of fat is also crucial. Too much saturated fat in your diet can result in high levels of ‘bad cholesterol’ (low-density lipoprotein or LDL), which raises your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). People with diabetes are at a higher risk of CVD, making healthier food choices even more essential,” Dr KS Brar, Senior Consultant – Endocrinology and Diabetology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi said.

But, if we calorie-quantify healthy fats and replace some carbs, we can get good results in the case of diabetes, Dr Rohatgi pointed out.

How much is safe?

The total amount of fat in the diet should not exceed 30 per cent of the total calories, according to experts. Explaining, Dr Gupta said: “If a person is taking 1600 calories daily, about 500 calories should come from fats. Since 9 calories are obtained from 1 gram of fat, not more than 50-60 grams of fats should be taken in a day.”

Opt for olive oil for low-temperature cooking (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

According to Dr Brar, however, no set number of daily grams of fat is recommended with varied calorie restrictions. “The current recommendation for adults is to limit total daily fat consumption to 20 per cent to 35 per cent of trusted sources of total daily calories and saturated fat intake to less than 10 per cent of trusted sources of total daily calories,” he said.

Good sources of dietary fats

As mentioned, the type of fat you consume is crucial, too. This is because, “when you eat ‘good’ fats instead of ‘bad’ fats, your body is protected against heart disease by lowering your blood cholesterol levels, which indirectly controls diabetes”, Dr Brar said.

However, one must ensure to limit their fat intake even if what they are consuming is considered ‘healthy’ fat. “One must ensure a balance in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Healthy choices include avocado, peanut oil, mustard oil, nuts (almonds, walnuts), chia seeds, fatty fishes, and olive oil for low-temperature cooking,” Dr Rohatgi said.

Dr Gupta added that the intake of saturated fats such as ghee, butter, coconut oil, palm oil, etc, should be minimised. “Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are beneficial especially for prevention of heart disease,” he said.

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