Fats are essential nutrients in our diets. They play a vital role in brain and nerve cell development and children require fats for normal growth. Fat is needed for the absorption of some vitamins (A, D, E and K) and antioxidant compounds found in fruits and vegetables.
Some types of fats found in food:
are mainly found in animal products such as dairy products, meat and lard. Other sources of saturated fat include palm and coconut oil (often used for deep frying), potato chips, biscuits, pastries, cakes, chocolate and fast foods. Saturated fats have been shown to contribute to increased cholesterol levels and poor heart health.
can be found in olives, most nuts, avocados, canola and olive oil.
can be found in sunflower seeds, soy beans, and sesame seeds.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
there are 2 types of omega 3 fatty acids:
Short Chain: Omega-3 ALA(Alpha-linolenic acid) - is found in canola and linseed (or flaxseed) oils, soybeans and green vegetables.
Long Chain: Omega-3 EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) & Omega-3 DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) –found in oily fish such as salmon, swordfish and tuna. They are the most effective type of Omega 3 for brain and eye development and function.
For more information visit our Omega-3 fatty acids section.
Omega 6 Fats
are found in vegetable oils such as corn, sunflower and cottonseed.
are found in hardened oils and margarines and occur naturally in beef, lamb, butter and dairy products. Artificially produced trans fats have been shown to contribute to increased cholesterol levels and poor heart health.
All fats are equally high in kilojoules, so those who gain weight easily must watch their total fat intake. For optimum health, it is best to consume monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in place of saturated and trans fats.
How much fat do you need?
The amount of fat a person needs depends on their age, sex, body size and composition, activity levels, family history and health status. There is strong evidence to suggest that Australians need to reduce the amount of fat in their diets. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that, we should ideally eat a diet low in fat, and particularly low in saturated fat.7 The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends that less than 30 percent of our total energy (kilojoules) should come from fat with less than 10 percent of energy coming from saturated fat.
Ref: Department of Health and Ageing; National Health and Medical Research Council: Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand including Recommended Dietary Intakes. Commonwealth of Australia 2006.
Ways to reduce saturated and trans fat intake:
Try using avocado on sandwiches with chicken or salad instead of margarine or butter. Avocado's contain approximately 22.6g of fat (mostly monounsaturated) compared with approximately 80.5g of fat from margarine.
Spread light cream cheese on sandwiches or on toast with some jam or honey. Light cream cheese contains about approximately 3 g of fat per tablespoon.
Use ricotta cheese on sandwiches or toast with a sweet or savoury toppings. Ricotta cheese contains about approximately 1.5 to 2.5 g of fat per tablespoon.
Use low fat or skim dairy products.
Consume unsalted nuts as a snack. They contain good oils as opposed to cakes, biscuits and potato chips which are mostly high in saturated fats.