Fats provide 9kcal per gram, hence the higher the fat content of a food, the higher calorie it will be. There are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats in our diets and we will look at these in more detail. Overall, we should reduce the total amount of fat in our diets, as well as reducing saturated (’bad’) fats and replacing them with unsaturated fats (‘good’). A diet which is high in fat leads to increased risk of weight gain, abnormal blood lipids (such as cholesterol and triglycerides) and coronary heart disease. Processed foods which are high in fat are often also high in sugar and salt, so another reason to look at food labels when making food choices.
These are often also referred to as ‘bad’ fats due to their negative affect on blood cholesterol and hence risk of coronary heart disease.
Saturated fats are predominantly found in animal products; however there are some vegetarian sources such as palm palm oil and coconut oil. Animal sources include butter, cheese, full fat milk, cream, visible fat on meat, lard and ghee.
Cut down saturated fat and replace with unsaturated fats, for example using rapeseed or olive oil and an olive oil based spread.
Go for lower fat varieties of foods such as low fat spread, semi-skimmed milk, low fat cheese, remove the skin from poultry, trim the visible fat from meats and choose lean varieties.
Taking notice of food labels will also help you make lower fat and saturated fat choices.
- Oily fish, such as salmon, herrings, mackerel, sardines, kippers and fresh tuna all provide the beneficial omega-3 polyunsaturated fats. These types of fats help protect against heart disease and strokes.
- Certain spreads are also based upon polyunsaturated fats so check the labels.
- Other sources of omega-3 fats are certain seeds and seed oils, such as linseed oil, soya oil, rapeseed oil and walnut oil, as well as walnuts and omega-3 enriched foods.
These are mainly found in olive oil, rapeseed oil, nuts and avocados.
These types of fats help to lower the bad cholesterol we have in our bodies, called LDL cholesterol.
Certain spreads are also based on monounsaturated fats.
- These are man-made fats and increase the risk of high cholesterol by increasing the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and lowering the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.
- They are predominantly found in ready made food products and snack foods, such as cakes, biscuits, pastries and fast foods.
- On food labels these fats may be listed as ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oil/fat’.
- Choose healthy cooking methods, such as grilling, poaching, steaming and baking.
- Look at food labels to make you more aware of the fat content of foods.
- Take care with processed and packaged foods, as well as when you eat out.
- Aim to eat 2 portions of fish per week, with one of these being oily fish.