It’s important to understand that there are different types of fats and that not all fats are created equal! You don’t need to completely eliminate all fats from your diet. In fact, some fats actually promote good health when consumed in moderation and coupled with a healthy, balanced diet.
Less Healthy Dietary Fats
Saturated fats occur naturally in animal food products such as fatty meats and dairy. They are also present in many processed foods that use butter, cheese, coconut oil and palm oil (or vegetable oil). Food sources include pastries, cakes, biscuits, hot chips and takeaway foods.
Eating a lot of saturated fat increases total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which may lead to an increased risk of heart disease. Studies have found that replacing saturated fats in your diet with other types of fats, such as poly- or monounsaturated fat, may lead to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease.
Trans fats were created by food manufacturers as an ingredient to improve the texture and shelf life of many products. Small amounts are naturally found in meat and dairy products but most of the trans fats being consumed in our diets come from deep-fried or baked foods such as hot chips, biscuits and pastries.
Trans fats should be avoided as much as possible as they are known to lower good (HDL) cholesterol and increase bad (LDL) cholesterol.
Healthier Dietary Fats
Monounsaturated fats help to lower bad (LDL) cholesterol, which contributes to improving heart health. Good sources include olive oil, canola oil, nuts and avocados.
Polyunsaturated fats help our bodies as they lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and increase good (HDL) cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat, which help reduce blood pressure, lower the risk of blood clots, and improve heart rate – all of which lowers your risk of heart disease! Sources include oily fish especially salmon, mackerel and sardines, sunflower oil, canola oil, walnuts, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds.
These are considered an ‘essential fatty acid’ – this means that our bodies cannot create them internally so we must get them externally from our diet. The National Heart Foundation recommends a weekly intake of 250-500mg of omega-3 fatty acids, which is around 2-3 serves of oily fish per week.
Here are some quick and easy ways to incorporate more healthy fats into your diet:
- Put oily fish (such as salmon, tuna, mackerel) down on the shopping list every week to remind yourself to include fish in your weekly menu
- Sprinkle some chia seeds or flaxseeds over your cereal or oats for breakfast
- Replace mayonnaise, butters and margarine spreads with avocado
- Make a trail mix of walnuts, almonds and sunflower seeds to take to work as a great mid-morning or afternoon tea snack
This article co-authored by Sylvia Wei, who is currently studying her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics at The University of Sydney.