Health Defence Blog
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Health Promotion Specialist

April 2, 2017

The good, the bad and the ugly. Do you know your fat facts?

Fat – we all have it, and in fact we need it. Did you know that some fat in our diet is good? Fat helps us to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K) and provides us with energy. We must also get ‘essential fats’ from our diet, as our body can’t make them.

That said, not all fats are created equal. There are three main types of fat in food and they all have different effects on our health:

Saturated fat:

  • Usually solid when cold and found mainly in animal sources e.g. butter, lard, fat on meat. Coconut oil, palm oil and ghee are also high in saturated fat.
  • Having too much saturated fat can increase cholesterol and your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • We should try to eat less saturated fat, and more unsaturated fats.

Unsaturated fat:

  • Usually liquid at room temperature and found mainly in plant and fish sources e.g. olive oil, nuts, salmon.
  • There are two types of unsaturated fat – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated - both of which help to reduce cholesterol levels.
  • These fats can replace saturated fats in the diet (for example, using vegetable oil in cooking rather than butter).

Trans fats:

  • Found mainly in processed foods and takeaways e.g. pies, pastries, cakes, biscuits and fried foods.
  • Too much trans fat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, so try to limit foods high in trans fats as part of a healthy diet.

Slash the saturated fat!

Saturated fat contributes to blockages in our arteries and is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. There are simple swaps you can make to reduce your saturated fat intake.

Reduce saturated fat during the workday using these simple swaps:

  • In your morning coffee: blue top milk --> green or red top milk
  • In your sandwich at lunch: butter --> margarine
  • Your afternoon snack: biscuit --> piece of fruit or handful of nuts
  • Tonight’s dinner: battered fish --> baked or grilled fish 

Up the unsaturated fat

Yes, some fat is GOOD! Increase your intake of healthy fats with these tips:

  • Snack on a dessert-spoon size of unsalted nuts or seeds each day. For example, almonds, sunflower seeds, peanuts or walnuts.
  • Choose healthy unsaturated oils such as olive oil (a great addition to salad dressings), or small amounts of sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, or canola oil in cooking.
  • Omega-3 fats – these 'essential fats’ help to prevent our blood from clotting and improve survival after a heart attack. Fish is the best source, so choose fish at least twice per week (one oily, such such as salmon, mackerel or sardines). See the Superfishoil blog for more inspiration– yum! Some plant foods have smaller amount of omega-3's such as walnuts, soya, flax or linseed oil.

We all need some fat in our diet (but not too much). The type of fat we eat can affect our risk of cardiovascular disease differently. Use the table below to pick your fats wisely: 

Have any questions? Give our friendly Advice Line Nurses a call on Freephone 0808 801 0899.

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***Disclaimer: always seek medical advice before starting a new diet, exercise regime or medication. The information in these articles is not a substitute for professional advice from a GP, registered dietitian or other health practitioner.

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