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Saturated & Unsaturated fats

Posted by Elizebath Bijoy Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fat is an essential part of our diet and is important for good health.  There are different types of fats, with some fats being healthier than others. To help make sure you stay healthy, it is important to eat 'healthy' fats in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
There are two main types of fats: saturated fats and unsaturated fats.

Saturated fats
Saturated fats are 'unhealthy' fats, and eating greater amounts of saturated fat is linked with an increased risk of heart disease and high blood cholesterol levels. These fats are solid at room temperature and are found in:
  • Animal-based products:
    • Dairy foods - such as butter, cream, full fat milk and cheese
    • Meat - such as fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb, processed meats like salami, and chicken (especially chicken skin)
  • Some plant-derived products:
    • Palm oil
    • Coconut
    • Coconut milk and cream
    • Cooking margarine
Saturated fats are also commonly found in many manufactured and packaged foods such as:
  • Fatty snack foods
  • Deep fried take away foods
  • Cakes
  • Pastries and pies
  • Biscuits
Unsaturated fats
Unsaturated fats are 'healthy' fats and are an important part of a healthy diet. These fats help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels (among other health benefits) when they replace saturated fats in the diet.
There are two main types of unsaturated fats: polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 fats which are found in fish and omega-6 fats which are found in some oils such as safflower and soybean oil, along with some nuts, including brazil nuts.
Monounsaturated fats are found in olive and canola oil, avocados and some nuts, such as cashews and almonds.

Trans fats
Trans fats are unsaturated fats that have been processed and as a result, behave like saturated fats. Consumption of trans fats increase the levels of 'bad' cholesterol and decrease the levels of 'good' cholesterol in the body which is a major risk factor for heart disease. It is important to lower the amounts of trans fats you eat to help improve your health.
Trans fats are found in many processed foods, also in butter and some margarines. When buying these products check the labels and choose the varieties that are lower in saturated and trans fats and higher in poly and monounsaturated fats.
The Heart Foundation recommends replacing saturated and trans fats with mono and polyunsaturated fats.1
When eaten in large amounts, all fats can contribute to weight gain. Fat is higher in energy (kilojoules) than any other nutrient. Eating less fat may assist in weight loss, while eating less saturated and trans fats may help lower your risk of heart disease.
Some fat is needed in our diet as it provides us with fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids. A diet low in saturated fats and trans fats, that includes moderate amounts of unsaturated fats will help you achieve or maintain good health.


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