What are Fats?
Fats are substances that help the body use some vitamins and keep the skin healthy; they are also the main way the body stores energy. In food, there are many types of fats being healthier than others. To help make sure you stay healthy– saturated, unsaturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and trans fats.
Eating greater amounts of saturated fat is linked with an increased risk of heart disease and high blood cholesterol levels. These fats are usually solid at room temperature and are found in:
Dairy foods – such as butter, cream, full fat milk and cheese
- Meat – such as fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb and chicken (especially chicken skin), processed meats like salami, Some plant-derived products:
- Palm oil
- Coconut milk and cream
- Cooking margarine
Many manufactured and packaged foods:
- Fatty snack foods (such as potato chips, savoury crackers)
- Deep-fried and high fat take away foods (such as hot chips, pizza, hamburgers)
- Cakes and high-fat muffins
- Pastries and pies (including quiche, tarts, sausage rolls, pasties, croissants)
- Sweet and savoury biscuits
Unsaturated fats 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:
- omega-3 fats which are found in fish, especially oily fish
- omega-6 fats which are found in some oils such as safflower and soybean oil, along with some nuts, including brazil nuts.
- found in olive and canola oil, avocados and some nuts, such as cashews and almonds.
Trans fats are refined unsaturated fats, which are saturated as a result. The consumption of trans fats increases ‘bad’ cholesterol and reduces ‘good’ cholesterol within the body, a major risk factor for heart disease. The amount of trans fats you eat is important to reduce, so you are healthy.
Trans fats are found in many packaged foods and also in butter and some margarines. Use food labels to compare foods and choose those with fewer trans fats.
It is great for health to replace saturated and trans fats with mono and polyunsaturated fats.
Cholesterol is a type of fat found in food, but also in our blood. Cholesterol has many important functions in the body but having high levels of the wrong type of cholesterol in the blood increases heart disease risk.
It was once thought that eating too many cholesterol-containing foods (such as eggs) was the major dietary cause of high blood cholesterol level. But we now know that eating too many foods containing higher amounts of saturated and trans fats is a bigger problem and has a much greater influence on blood cholesterol levels.
Source: Dietitians Association of Australia.
What are fats in food?
The foods we eat contain nutrients and provide the body requires energy and other substances. Most of the food’s nutrients fall into three main groups: proteins, fats and carbohydrates. The body uses fat as a source of fuel, and fat is the body ‘s principal form of energy storage.