Fats are a valuable source of energy, yielding 9kcal per gram. Fats are a source of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K, which are crucial for the normal growth, function, and maintenance of our tissues and organs. They also provide essential fatty acids that the body cannot produce, meaning we must get them from the diet. Essential fatty acids Omega- 3 and Omega- 6 have a wide range of health benefits. Improved heart health, lower blood pressure, decreased triglyceride levels, improved cholesterol, and reduced risk of heart disease are among some of the benefits they provide.
Fat consists of 4 main types; saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated and trans fats. Most fats contain a mixture of these; however, the dominant type is the type that will characterize the fat.
Saturated fats have previously been labeled as “bad fats,” which they can be if you consume them in large amounts. A large intake can increase cholesterol and be damaging to our heart. However, in moderation, you can consume saturated fats. Do not consume more than 20g for women and 30g for men of saturated fat per day.
Examples of saturated fats: butter, sour cream, cream cheese, mayonnaise, sausages, bacon, cured meats, ice cream, milkshakes, chocolate spreads.
Trans fats are naturally found in some meats and dairy. They can also be created in an industrial process, found in processed and hardened vegetable oils (margarine). High consumption of trans fats raises your bad (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your good (HDL) cholesterol. They are putting you at risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Therefore avoid these foods or keep them to an absolute minimum.
Unsaturated fats are called monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA). They have a different molecular structure to saturated fats because they have a double bond in their structure.
Monounsaturated fats have been found to lower LDL cholesterol. Sources of monounsaturated fats: avocado, nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts), olive oil, nut butter, and sesame oil.
Polyunsaturated fats also reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Two types of PUFA are Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Evidence has also provided a strong link between these and improved heart health.
Sources of omega-3: oily fish, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds and oil, canola oil, and fortified foods.
Sources of omega-6: soybeans, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, tofu, eggs.
Tips on how to include more unsaturated in your diet: swap your butter on toast for avocado, sprinkle your yogurt with chia seeds, add some flaxseeds to your smoothie, add some sunflower seeds/walnuts on your salad, swap meat for oily fish, add some peanut butter to your fruit or yogurt, swap your snack bar for a boiled egg.