The many different types of fats we consume in our diet can become very confusing. What we do know is that we want to limit our fat consumption to approximately 30% of our total energy input.
The fats we consume in our diet are:
- Saturated Fat
- Trans fat
- Monounsaturated fat
- Polyunsaturated fat
Each fat plays a different role in our body, some are recommended and others when in high consumption can have negative health effects.
Saturated fats are found in the food we eat and are usually solid and room temperature (margarine, butter etc). Saturated fats are abundant in animal products such as dairy, meat and plant products such as coconut oil and palm. Individuals with diets high in saturated fats are at risk of increased cholesterol levels, in particular ‘LDL’- the bad cholesterol.
Trans fats are unsaturated fats and can be naturally occurring or synthetic in foods. Synthetic or “manufactured: trans fats are created by the way some fats and oils are heated. Trans fats are found in foods that use hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable fats (deep fried or baked food). Similar to saturated fats, trans fats have a negative effect on our cholesterol.
Monounsaturated fats are simple fats that have a positive effect on our health when consumed moderately. Monounsaturated fats can lower LDL cholesterol when they replace saturated fat and trans fats in our diets. Foods that are rich in monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, safflower oil and sesame oil.
Similar to Monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats can lower LDL cholesterol when they replace saturated fat and trans fats in our diets. Polyunsaturated fats also contain essential fats that can only be consumed in our diets. Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats are essential fatty acids that can improve our cholesterol. Foods high in polyunsaturated fats include soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil and fatty fish. Fish is an excellent source of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.