Spotlight on... low-fat
You probably already know too much fat is bad for you - but did you know too little of the good kind can leave you nutrient deficient, with high cholesterol and lacking in energy? Nutritionist Jo Lewin explains...
A certain amount of fat is required for health. It is needed to absorb certain fat soluble nutrients, manufacture cell walls and produce hormones. Fat is a valuable source of energy, and provides essential fatty acids that the body cannot make itself. However, not all fats are equal in terms of their effects on the body. Eating the right kinds of fat can help to protect you from heart and circulatory problems, but too much of other types can be detrimental to health. There are three main types of fat - saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated - and they all have different roles in the body.
Saturated fat is frequently vilified as it is linked to cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol. Red meat, butter, cheese, burgers and sausages, are high in saturated fat, as are ghee, coconut and palm oils. A diet high in saturated fat can increase total cholesterol and the harmful LDL cholesterol, which can increase your risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.
Monosaturated fat found in olive, groundnut and rapeseed oils and nuts (almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts and pistachios), olives and avocados are particularly good for heart health. These fats can help lower the harmful LDL cholesterol.
Polyunsaturated fats are found in corn oil, sunflower oil, nuts and seeds (walnuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds). There are two main types of polyunsaturated fats: omega 3 and omega 6. These are termed essential fats as they cannot be made in the body and need to be obtained through the foods we eat. Polyunsaturated fats help to prevent your arteries becoming blocked and may lower blood pressure.
1 portion of oily fish = approx 120g.
It is recommended to eat 1-2 servings of oily fish per week. If you don't like oily fish, you can get omega-3 fats from vegetable sources such as flaxseed, nuts and seeds, however it remains uncertain if the omega-3 in these foods brings the same heart healthy benefits as those in oily fish. If you are considering an omega-3 supplement, make sure you discuss with your doctor to ensure there are no contraindications with other drugs you might be taking.
A note on trans fat...
Trans fat is also known as hydrogenated fat. These are commonly used in manufactured food products such as shop-bought pies, pastries and cakes, favoured for their palatability and long shelf life. Trans fats are linked to high cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart disease and cancer. Read labels on any foods you haven't cooked fresh and try to avoid those containing hydrogenated oils. For more information on trans fats visit www.heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-eating/fats
Those who are trying to loose weight, lower cholesterol or have concerns about the amount of fat in their diets may want to reduce the total amount of fat they consume.
The recommended daily amount (RDA) of total fat is 95g for men and 70g for women.
Within this amount, too many people eat too much saturated fat. Within the total amount of fat, the average man should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat per day; the average woman should eat no more than 20g saturated fat per day.
When shopping, compare nutrition labels so you can pick foods lower in fat. Use the per 100g column to compare.
High-fat foods = more than 20g of fat per 100g
Low-fat foods = less than 3g fat per 100g
Look out for saturated fat on the label, this tells you how much saturated fat is in the food.
Hig-saturated fat = more than 5g saturates per 100g
Low-saturated fat = 1.5g saturates or less per 100g.
Some packaging also uses the traffic light colour coding to reflect saturated fat levels. 'Red' reflects high saturated fat, 'green' indicates low saturated fat. Aim to eat red foods occasionally and green foods more frequently. Visit the NHS Choices pages for more information on food labelling.