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Eat less saturated and trans fats

The facts on fats

Did you know there are different types of fat in food?

Some fats, like saturated and trans fats in high amounts, are not good for our health.

There are however some good fats, and children and adults all need to include small amounts of healthy fats in their diet, while limiting food and drinks that are high in unhealthy saturated and trans fats.

But how do we get the fat balance right? Saturated fat, trans fat, unsaturated fat, omega 3 & 6 – it all seems so confusing!

Don’t worry. Simply by following our ten easy swaps to limit unhealthy fats and five easy ways to include healthy fats you can steer your healthy eating towards the good fats and away from the bad ones, and get the balance just right.

Saturated and trans fats – the ones to limit

Saturated fats and trans fats are unhealthy fats due to their chemical structure. Too much of these fats can increase the amount of bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) in our blood, which leads to clogging of blood vessels and can cause heart disease.

Saturated fats

These are found mainly in animal foods such as fatty meats, dairy foods (milk, cheese, yoghurt – especially the full-fat ones) and butter. They are also found in two vegetable oils: palm oil and coconut oil.

Find out more about saturated fats and about butter vs margarine.

Trans fats

While they’re actually unsaturated fats, their chemical structures make them act like a saturated fats, and so they will also increase the amount of bad LDL cholesterol in our blood.

Trans fats in food can be found in two forms:

  1. Naturally occurring fats in some animal foods like beef, lamb, veal and mutton and dairy products, especially full-fat products
  2. Industrially produced fats in processed foods like deep fried foods and bakery goods. Because they can be found in all sorts of foods, it’s important to know where trans fats might be lurking in your diet.

Try these ten easy swaps to limit unhealthy fats 

See how easy it is to make some really simple swaps in your food choices to lower the amount of unhealthy fats you eat – without losing out on flavour.

  1. swap full-cream milk, yoghurt and custard for low-fat varieties. They have just as much calcium as the full-fat varieties
  2. swap full-fat cheese for reduced-fat cheese and keep the serve size small (40 grams = 2 slices)
  3. swap butter for margarine on toast and sandwiches, and in cooking
  4. swap cream on desserts for low-fat ricotta mixed with a little apple juice, or a dollop of low-fat yoghurt
  5. swap sour cream on savoury meals for a dollop of low-fat yoghurt
  6. swap fatty sandwich meats such as fritz, salami and mettwurst for lean ham, turkey, chicken, beef, tuna, salmon or sardines
  7. swap fatty meat cuts for leaner ones. Choose lean beef, lamb or pork cutlets, and trim off any visible fat on meat, and skin on chicken before cooking
  8. swap deep-fried meat, chicken or fish for grilled or oven baked
  9. swap creamy dishes for tomato-based dishes, or swap cream in recipes for a tin of light evaporated milk
  10. swap biscuits, cakes and pastries for healthier alternatives such as a delicious fruit platter, fruit loaf with a little margarine, or for the occasional treat, a home made cake using polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oils or margarine like canola, olive, safflower, sunflower, peanut oil.

Healthy fats – the ones we need

Healthy fats are mainly found in plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds and grains, but are also in fish and lean meats.

They help to keep the good and bad cholesterol in your blood in the right balance.

There are two main categories of healthy fats.

Monounsaturated fats

Monounsaturated fats are found in oils like canola and olive oil as well as in avocadoes and nuts such as peanuts, almonds and cashews.

Polyunsaturated fats

There are two main sub-categories of polyunsaturated fats:

  • omega-3 fats are found in oily fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna, and also in linseed and walnuts
  • omega-6 fats are found in nuts and seeds, nut and seed pastes like peanut butter and tahini, and also in fish, safflower and sunflower margarines and oils.

Read more about the different types of healthy fats and the best food sources.

Five easy ways to include small amounts of healthy fats:

  • choose margarine to spread thinly on your wholegrain bread or crackers
  • use small amounts of polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oil in cooking and salad dressings (1-2 teaspoons per person)
  • include fish at least twice a week, preferably omega-3 rich fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna.
  • try sprinkling ground linseeds or other seeds* on your cereal
  • enjoy a small handful (30grams) of unsalted nuts* or seeds*.

*Remember, nuts and seeds are an alternative to lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs and legumes/beans so they contribute to your daily intake of this food category.

Discover more ways to boost your intake of healthy omega-3 polyunsaturated fats.

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