Fat has developed a bad reputation in recent years, but it is an essential nutrient required by our body. They provide energy during rest, sleeping and gentle exercise. They are essential in our diets to protect our vital organs and keep us warm by providing a layer of insulation underneath our skin.
Types of fat
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (also known as the 'good' fats). These fats should be the primary source of fat intake.
Saturated fat (also known as the 'bad' fat) which should not be consumed excessively as it can lead to a number of health issues including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high levels of bad cholesterol and obesity.
Finally, there's trans-fat, this type of fat has no nutritional value. It reduces the levels of good cholesterol in the blood stream and can increase risk of cardiovascular disease. Trans fats are found in a low level of some foods such as meat and dairy products.
Hydrogenated vegetable oil may also contain trans fat, so always check the label as the supplier must declare this.
How much do I need?
Fat should make up 25-35% of our diet. When looking at food labels, be sure to check the amount of saturated fat in the product. A high level is more than 20g per 100g (5g per portion) and a low healthy level is less than 3g per 100g (1.5g per portion).
Recommended daily intakes for adults:
Food sources of fat and role in the body
|Saturated fat (limit intake of this fat)||Polyunsaturated fat (like any fat, consume in moderation)||Monounsaturated fat (like any fat, consume in moderation)|
|Can increase levels of bad cholesterol in the blood, increased risk of heart attack, stroke and atherosclerosis (narrowed arteries)||Health benefits include lowering bad cholesterol levels in the blood, lowering risk of heart disease and include essential fats omega 3 and 6 that can't be produced within the body||Health benefits include reducing bad cholesterol in the blood and lowering the risk of heart disease and strokes. They also help to maintain and develop the body's cells. They are typically high in vitamin E too.|
|Fatty meat, meat products eg sausages and pies, butter, lard, cheese, cream, pasties, chocolate, biscuits, cakes||Vegetable oils - soybean, corn and sunflower.
Fatty fish - wild salmon, mackerel, herring, trout.
Nuts and seeds - almonds, unsalted peanuts, nut butter (peanut or other), cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, linseed and flaxseed
|Olive oil, canola oil, black or green olives, peanut butter, nuts - peanuts, almonds, macadamias, sunflower and sesame seeds and their oils, avocados|
Omega 3 and 6 aren't produced in the body but play a vital role in brain function and in normal growth and development.
When it comes to food labels, typically they tell us how many kcals, grams of fat, protein etc there are in one portion. Here are some numbers to look for on the packet:
|Total fat||High levels = 17.5g per 100g serving
Low levels = Up to 3g per 100g serving
Moderate levels are in between
|Saturated fat||High levels = 5g and above per 100g serving
Low levels = Up to 1.5g per 100g serving
Moderate levels are in between