What are the different types of fats?
Saturated fat, which is typically solid at room temperature, and Unsaturated fat. There are two types of unsaturated fats:
- Monounsaturated fats - This type of fat is typically liquid at room temperature but may become solid when chilled.
- Polyunsaturated fats - This type of fat is typically liquid at room temperature and when chilled.
Two types of polyunsaturated fats that are very important are long chain omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids.
Our bodies cannot make these polyunsaturated fats so we must get them from food.
However, most of us get enough omega 6 fatty acids but not enough long chain omega 3 fatty acids.
Which fats should we limit or avoid?
As part of a healthy diet, it is not only important to cut down on the amount of total fat eaten, but also to reduce saturated fats by replacing these with unsaturated fats where possible (e.g. polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats), which are a healthier alternative.
Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood which increases the risk of heart disease.
Which fats are better for us than others?
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can have a positive effect on health.
However, all types of fat contain calories so they should be eaten in small amounts.
The omega 3 fatty acids that provide most health benefits are the long chain omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish. These acids are a very important part of our diet as they help to protect us against heart disease.
Most foods contain a combination of different fats.
Examples of foods high in saturated fat:
- animal sources such as meat products, meat pies, sausages, hard cheese, butter and lard, cream and crème fraîche.
- other foods high in saturated fat include cakes, biscuits, and foods containing coconut oil, coconut cream and palm oil.
Examples of foods high in long chain omega 3 fatty acids:
- oily fish such as fresh or frozen mackerel, salmon, kippers, white bait, pilchards, sardines, trout and herring are a great source of long chain omega 3 fatty acids.
- fresh or canned tuna is not classed as an oily fish.
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