Imagine your mashed potatoes without butter, pasta sauce without cream or Sunday roast without the roast potatoes. There is no doubt that fat helps to add taste to food but fat is the most calorific of all nutrients and the best way to enjoy it is in small amounts.
Fats and oils supply more than twice the number of calories of any other nutrient; just 1g of fat will provide 9 kcals compared to carbohydrate and protein which each produce 4 kcal of energy per gram.
However, despite their high calorie value not all fats are bad; some fats play a vital role in the body and are essential for good health.
Different types of fat
There are three types of fat in the diet, each with different roles to play in our health and wellbeing.
Polyunsaturated fats are found in corn, soybean, and safflower oils, and many types of nuts. Despite their popular image of being good for you, they have the same number of calories as other fats and can cause weight gain if eaten excessively. High intakes of polyunsaturated fat can also have a detrimental effect on blood cholesterol.
Unsaturated fats are a healthier alternative to saturated fat. The best sources of monounsaturated fat are unprocessed oils like olive oil, peanut oil, sesame oil and rapeseed oil; nuts and seeds; and avocados.
These fats are mainly found in foods of animal origin such as meat and meat products, including lard, butter, whole milk and cheese. It is also used as an ingredient in biscuits, cakes and desserts.
A diet high in saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol and increase your risk of coronary heart disease so it is important to keep your intake of this fat to a minimum.
Why your body needs fat
Fat has vital roles in the body.
- It is a source of essential fats that the body cannot make for itself.
Essential fatty acids – eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA) – cannot be made by the body and so must be provided by the diet. They can be found in fish such as mackerel, herring, salmon, trout, fresh tuna, sardines and kippers. Essential fatty acids have been shown to aid blood circulation and prevent the formation of unnecessary blood clots. DHA is also
involved in brain and eye development in infants and pregnant women are encouraged to eat oily fish once a week.
- It is the source of vitamins A, D and E.
These are essential substances needed for healthy hair, skin, nails and bones. Vitamins A and E are also involved in protecting blood vessels and have a role in heart disease viagra prevention.
- It is a concentrated source of energy (high in calories).
This can be beneficial in certain circumstances. For example, energy rich foods like fat play an important role in children’s diets because pound for pound, children need more energy than adults do but have much smaller appetites. They also burn fat more efficiently than adults do.
How much fat do you need?
The amount of fat you can eat each day varies with weight, age and activity level. If you need to lose weight or your only exercise is on the remote control after dinner each evening, then you will need to eat less fat than the person who takes regular exercise and is of average weight. However, the following figures have been devised as a rough guide to recommended fat intakes.
Source: Institute of Grocery Distribution
A small amount of fat is necessary in the diet so if you find some of your favourite foods on the list you should continue to enjoy them, but only in small amounts. If you regularly eat most of the foods listed, you should probably see a dietician and make some changes to your eating habits.
- All types of oil
- Greek yoghurt
- Salad cream
- Salad dressing
- Danish Pastry
- Oily fish
- Chipped, fried and roast potatoes
- Fried vegetables
- Sausages and meat pies
- Fat on meat
- Skin on chicken or turkey