Fats

Too much fat, especially saturated fat, can increase the risk of heart disease.

Fats

To help reduce the risk of heart disease try reducing your overall fat intake as well as choosing the right fats to eat. Replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat and the omega 3 fatty acids found in oil-rich fish can help lower cholesterol levels.

We do need some fat in our diets as it helps our bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins. But remember that all fats contain a lot of calories and consuming too many calories can lead to weight gain.

Saturated fat

Saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood, which increases the chances of developing heart disease. It’s a good idea to cut down on foods which are high in saturated fat like:

  • meat (especially fatty cuts of meat) and meat products like sausages and pies
  • butter, ghee and lard
  • cream, soured cream, crème fraîche and ice-cream
  • cheese, especially hard cheese
  • pastries, cakes and biscuits
  • coconut oil, coconut cream and palm oil.

Good to know

UK health guidelines recommend that:

  • men should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day
  • women should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day.

Unsaturated fat

We need to eat some fat to help our bodies absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. Try replacing saturated fats with healthier unsaturated fats and omega 3 fats found in oil-rich fish to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease. Remember that all fats contain a lot of calories: eating too much of any fat can increase the risk of becoming overweight. Unsaturated fats are mostly found in oils that come from plants:

  • sunflower, rapeseed, olive and vegetable oils and spreads
  • avocados
  • nuts and seeds.

Good to know

It’s easy to swap saturated fats for healthier unsaturated fat.

  • Use unsaturated oils like olive, sunflower or rapeseed oil instead of butter, lard and ghee for cooking
  • Make mashed potato with a small amount of olive oil and garlic instead of butter and milk
  • Choose reduced fat spreads rather than butter for your morning toast
  • Eat oil-rich fish rather than sausages or meat pies

Omega 3 fatty acids

Oil-rich fish is the best source of the omega 3 fatty acids that protect against heart disease. We should all aim to eat two portions of fish a week and one should be an oil-rich fish like mackerel, salmon or herring.

Trans fats

Trans fats raise blood cholesterol which increases the risk of heart disease. Low levels of trans fats are found in many foods that come from animals, like meat and dairy products. They are also found in food containing hydrogenated vegetable oil, but UK manufacturers have lowered levels of hydrogenated vegetable oil in many foods to reduce trans fat. In Scotland we eat more saturated fats than trans fats, so we should focus on reducing the amount of saturated fats in our diet.

Understand the label

Checking the labels on your food is one way to cut back on fat. Try to choose food with less fat overall, as well as less saturated fat.

Good to know

On food labels, saturated fat is sometimes called saturates or sat fat.

Total fat

  • High fat means there’s more than 17.5g of fat per 100g of food
  • Low fat means 3g or less of fat per 100g of food (1.5g per 100ml of liquids)
  • Fat free means there is 0.5g or less per 100g or 100ml

Saturated fat

  • High in saturated fat means there’s more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g of food
  • Low in saturated fat means 1.4g of saturates or less per 100g of food (0.75g per 100ml of liquid)
  • Saturated fat free means 0.1g of saturated fat per 100g or 100ml

Good to know

It's easier than you think to reduce your fat intake.

  • Check labels and choose lower fat products
  • Choose lean cuts of meat and cut off any visible fat
  • Grill, bake, poach or steam rather than frying or roasting – you won’t need to add any extra fat
  • Add extra vegetables, beans or pulses to meals – you can use less meat and it’s cheaper too
  • Measure cooking oil with a spoon or use an oil spray rather than pouring oil straight into the pan
  • If you are making a pie reduce the amount of pastry you use by only having a lid
  • Experiment with sandwiches. Using a light version mayonnaise or salad cream means you may not need to add butter or spread
  • If you do use spread choose a reduced fat version and take it out of the fridge for a few minutes before you need it, so it’s easier to spread thinly
  • Choose lower fat dairy food like semi-skimmed, 1% or skimmed milk, reduced fat yoghurt or low-fat cheese
  • Try grating your cheese or using a stronger flavoured cheese as you tend to use less

More on this topic

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​Eatwell Guide Booklet

The Eatwell Guide shows the proportions in which different types of foods are needed to have a well-balanced and healthy diet.

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Vitamins & minerals

Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that our body needs to work properly.

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Sugar

Most of us need to cut down on the sugar we consume, it's low in nutritional value and shouldn't be part of a healthy diet.

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Salt

Two-thirds of us eat too much salt. Around 75% of salt we eat comes from everyday foods like bread, breakfast cereal and ready meals.

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