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Contrary to mainstream popular belief, fats are necessary for the functioning of our bodies. Fats provide a valuable energy source but also aid us in keeping us warm, muscle movement, absorption of vitamins and minerals, building our cell membranes and much more.

The most common fats you may have heard of are unsaturated fats and saturated fats. However, there is a great difference between the two! It is necessary to understand this to make the best dietary choices for better health.

What is Saturated Fat?

The term saturated is given to these fats because of the hydrogen atom saturation. Saturated fats have no double bonds in their structure and are tightly packed at room temperature. They are frequently found in foods such as:

· Meat – particularly red meat but also in pork and poultry

· Plant oils e.g. palm, coconut and kernel oil

· Hard Cheese e.g. cheddar

· Whole milk, cream and ice creams

· Butter, lard and ghee

· Processed Meat – sausages, bacon, hot dogs etc

· Ultra-processed foods – pies, cakes, cookies and crisps

As saturated fats are usually demonised, especially in diet culture, it is important to note that these foods can be eaten in small amounts as part of a healthy diet!

Too many sources of saturated fats can contribute to higher cholesterol levels and obesity which can significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

What is Unsaturated Fat?

Unsaturated fats refer to monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega-3 fats. Their structure contains more double bonds with less hydrogen. These are commonly known as the “healthier fats” and are found in sources such as:

· Oily fish – salmon, sardines and mackerel

· Olives and olive oil

· Nuts and seeds – walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds

· Fruits and vegetables e.g. avocados

To promote a balanced and healthy diet, we want to increase our unsaturated fat consumption over our saturated fat consumption. This is incredibly beneficial to our cardiovascular health and overall wellbeing.

What can I Look Out For?

There are a lot of conflicting messages out there however, remember this golden rule. Lower your saturated fat and increase your unsaturated fat. It’s okay to have that cookie once in a while!

When shopping, pay attention to the colour-coded nutrient labels on food packaging and aim for more green and amber foods.

We should not let saturated fat make up more than 11% of our total daily calories. This is roughly 20g for women and 30g for men.

Want to Know More?

NHS Live Well – https://www.nhs.uk/Live-well/eat-well/how-to-eat-a-balanced-diet/eat-less-saturated-fat/

BDA Food Fact Sheet for Fats – https://www.bda.uk.com/uploads/assets/84f584f6-9294-4a5f-8012bf20e7bedd56/Fat-food-fact-sheet.pdf

NHS Eatwell Guide – https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/food-guidelines-and-food-labels/the-eatwell-guide/

Fats Explained – https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/support/healthy-living/healthy-eating/fats-explained

Nutritank Support – https://nutritank.com

Aditi Mudaliar

Aditi is a 4th-year Nutrition and Dietetics student passionate about all things food, nutrition and holistic health. She seeks to seed healthy inspiration to support individuals in their ventures. From myth-busting to nurturing our wellbeing, Aditi simplifies nutrition into things everyone can take home.

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