While some fat in our diet is essential, as a nation, we are generally eating too much. All types of fat are high in calories and too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood, which in turn can increase your risk of developing coronary heart disease. We’ve written this blog to provide you with top tips on cutting down your fat intake and to get you thinking about choosing healthier unsaturated fats.
What types of fat are best?
Unsaturated fats are healthier forms of fat as they provide us with important fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins. The British Heart Foundation advises us to swap saturated fats for unsaturated oils and fats as these are better for heart health. Remember- all types of fat are high in energy so should be used sparingly!
Generally speaking, foods high in saturated fats are solid at room temperature while most unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature.
How much fat?
The population on average gets 12.6% of their energy (kJ/kcal) from saturated fats, which is slightly above the 11% maximum recommended intake.
- Men are advised to have no more than 30g of saturated fat a day
- Women are advised to have no more than 20g of saturated fat a day
- Children should have less fat than adults.
Which oils are best to cook with?
If you use oil at home during cooking, try to select oils such as rapeseed, vegetable or olive oil as these contain more unsaturated fats. In recent years, oils, such as coconut oil, have become a popular choice to use in cooking and are often promoted as a healthy choice on social media. However, coconut oil has a saturated fat content of around 86 per cent, about a third more saturated fat than butter (52 per cent)! It’s therefore not recommended for daily use.
When cooking with oil, it’s best to choose an oil with a high smoke point. This means the oil can withstand higher temperatures before the fats start to break down and changes in flavour. Good oils to use at high temperatures are rapeseed oil, peanut oil or sunflower oil.
Top tips for reducing your fat intake:
- Limit the use of saturated fats such as butter, lard, suet, ghee, coconut oil and palm oil
- Opt for healthier unsaturated fats such as vegetable oil, rapeseed oil and olive oil and lower fat vegetables based spreads
- Measure oil when cooking; one teaspoon per person or one tablespoon for a family of four or try using a spray oil
- Avoid frying foods. Try stir frying, grilling, baking or steaming
- Reduce high fat snacks such as cakes, biscuits and crisps for healthy alternatives such as plain rice cakes, toast and plain popcorn
- Opt for foods that are richer in unsaturated fats such as avocado, unsalted nuts and seeds.
- Make your own salad dressings using ingredients such as balsamic vinegar, low fat yoghurt, lemon juice, and herbs
- Choose reduce fat cheese and keep the portion size small, about a match boxed size, and opt for strong flavoured varieties and grate it to make it go further
- The nutrition labels on food packaging can help you cut down on total fat and saturated fat (also listed as saturates, or sat fat). Opt for low fat foods as much as possible.
- high fat – more than 17.5g of fat per 100g
- low fat – 3g of fat or less per 100g, or 1.5g of fat per 100ml for liquids
- fat-free – 0.5g of fat or less per 100g or 100ml
- high in sat fat – more than 5g of saturates per 100g
- low in sat fat – 1.5g of saturates or less per 100g or 0.75g per 100ml for liquids
- sat fat-free – 0.1g of saturates per 100g or 100ml
Want to find out more about label reading? Download your FREE British Heart Foundation ‘Guide to Label reading’.