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Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit
Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit

Nutrition - Saturated and Unsaturated Fat

Why do we need fat?

  • Fat is important as a source of energy, especially for healthy growth and development in young children.

  • Fat is needed for absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

  • Fat also provides essential fatty acids that the body needs for heart health, to make hormones and to build healthy cells and skin.

  • The fat layer under the skin also helps to insulate the body against extreme temperatures.

Because high fat intakes may increase your risk of certain diseases, fat in foods should be lowered, but not cut out.

Men need about 90 grams of fat (22 ½ teaspoons), women need about 65 grams (16 ¼ teaspoons) every day.

 

How much and what type of fats should you eat?

Choosing the right amount and types of oils and fats can lower your risk of developing certain diseases such as heart disease. For good health, include a small amount of unsaturated fat and limit the amount of saturated and trans fat in your day.

Have a small amount - 30 to 45 mL (2 to 3 tbsp.) - of unsaturated fat each day through cooking, salad dressing, margarine and mayonnaise.

Unsaturated vegetable oils include:

  • Canola
  • Corn
  • Flaxseed
  • Olive
  • Peanut
  • Soybean
  • Sunflower

Limit butter, hard margarine, lard and shortening. And read labels to avoid and sources of trans fats such as baked goods, fried foods and processed foods.

 

What are the different kinds of fat?

Type of Fat

Food Sources

What should I know about it?

Monounsaturated Fat

Olive and canola oil, some soft non-hydrogenated margarines, avocados and nuts; almonds, pistachios, pecans and cashews.

Monounsaturated fat helps lower blood cholesterol.

Polyunsaturated Fat

There are two types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 and omega-6.

Polyunsaturated fats also help lower blood cholesterol

 

Omega-3 fats are found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, herring and sardines and oils and some soft margarines. It is also found in omega-3 enriched eggs and milk products.

Omega-6 fats are found in safflower, sunflower and corn oils, in some soft non-hydrogenated margarines and nuts and seeds such as almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.

Omega-3 fats help prevent stickiness and clotting of blood. Many studies have shown that eating higher fat fish helps lower risk of heart diseases.

Saturated fat

Found in foods from animals, such as fatty cuts of meat, poultry with the skin, lard and higher fat milk, cheese and yogurt. Also found in some vegetable oils, including coconut and palm kernel oils.

Some saturated fats have been linked to a higher risk of heart disease.

Most of the trans fat in our diet comes from hydrogenated margarines (especially hard margarines), commercially fried foods and bakery products that are made with shortening, margarine, or partially hydrogenated oil. These include crackers, cookies, donuts, pastries, muffins, and croissants, snack foods and fried foods such as french fries and breaded foods.

A small amount of naturally-occurring trans fat is found in meat and dairy products. More research is needed to understand the differences between natural and man-made trans fats.

 

What kinds of fat increase my risk for heart disease?

In general, saturated fat and trans fat raise the blood levels of the 'bad' cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol). LDL-cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. In addition to raising 'bad' cholesterol, trans fat also reduces the blood levels of the 'good' cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol). HDL-cholesterol protects against heart disease.

Omega-3 fats have been shown to reduce the risk for heart disease. Enjoy at least 2 Food Guide servings of fish every week (e.g. char, herring, salmon, sardines, and mackerel). Find out about limiting exposure to mercury from certain kinds of fish for women and children.

 

How can I make lower fat choices?

When cutting fat from your diet, think about the different ways that fat is present in food. Fat can be hidden in foods (like cheese, baked goods); it can be visible on foods (such as the skin of chicken and the fat that surrounds meat) or it can be added to foods (such as oil, margarine, butter, and salad dressings). All of these forms of fat add up to how much fat you eat in a day.

At the grocery store

  • On the label: Compare the % Daily Value of fat between similar products. Anything with less than 5% Daily Value is a lower fat choice. Choose lower fat choices from each food group more often.
  • Take the time to read labels when buying cookies, crackers and cakes to limit your intake of saturated fat and trans fat.
  • Choose lower-fat milk products more often. This means a milk-fat(MF) of less than 2% for milk, cottage cheese and yogurt. Cheese is considered lower fat if it contains less than 20% MF.
  • Choose plain meat and fish that is not breaded.
  • Select lean meat and alternatives prepared with little or no added fat or salt.

When cooking at home

  • Substitute soft margarine for hard margarine, butter or lard in baking.
  • Choose cooking methods that use very small amounts of fat like grilling, broiling, baking, roasting, stir-frying, poaching and steaming.
  • Use non-stick pans to reduce the amount of oil you use.
  • Eat legumes (chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils) as a meat alternative at least once a week.
  • Know your serving sizes: a serving of fish, meat, or poultry is 75 grams (1/2 cup cooked).
  • Go easy on spreads and sauces. When serving meats with sauce, drizzle a small amount - not a ladle - of sauce over the meat.
  • Add a splash of herbed or flavoured vinegar to salads.
  • Try mustard, chutney or salsa on sandwiches.
  • Use more herbs and spices to season your food.
  • Trim visible fat from meat and remove skin from poultry.

When eating out

  • Choose more often foods that are:
    • grilled, baked, broiled, poached, au jus, steamed or dry-sautéed;
    • prepared with broth or tomato sauce, not cream;
    • flavoured with fresh herbs, rather than fats such as oil and butter.
  • Choose less often foods that are:
    • pan-fried or deep-fried;
    • covered with gravy, sauces, sour cream or guacamole;
    • served au beurre, au gratin, crispy, carbonara, flaky, batter-dipped, breaded, parmigiana, tempura, fritters, à la hollandaise - all these terms imply that the cooking method used has extra fat and calories.
  • Ask for dressings/sauces on the side.
  • Keep an eye on portion size. Consider sharing a large portion with someone else or taking half the meal home for the next day.

Eatright Ontario, 2012




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