Fat is an important part of our diet. It provides energy and helps absorption of certain vitamins, as well as providing essential fatty acids.
It’s important to balance the amount of fat and the type of fat we consume.
Fat is very high in calories so too much will lead to weight gain, which increases our likelihood of developing health conditions like type 2 diabetes, joint problems and some cancers.
Healthy diet guidelines advise us to cut down on foods that are high in saturated fat.
What is saturated fat?
Saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol levels, which in turn increase the risk of heart disease.
Saturated fat is the type of fat found in foods such as butter, lard, coconut and palm oil, hard cheese and full fat dairy products.
Fat on meat and meat products that are fatty, like some sausages and burgers, also contain saturated fat.
It’s also found in biscuits, cakes, pastries, pies and processed foods.
The British Dietetic Association guidelines suggest no more than a third of our total fat intake should come from saturated fat. For men this is 30g a day and for women 20g a day.
How to cut back?
The British Heart Foundation advice is to replace saturated fat with other monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and to make healthy food swaps.
Instead of butter, ghee or lard use a small amount of olive, rapeseed or sunflower oil or spread. Use spray oil instead of pouring from the bottle.
Cut all visible fat off meat and remove chicken and turkey skin.
Instead of full-fat dairy use semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, cottage cheese and extra light soft cheese.
Looking at food labels will let you know whether a certain product is high in fat.
Foods with over 17.5% fat have a red traffic light label, those between 3% and 17.5% would be amber and under 3% would have a green flash.
Some labels also list grams of fat ‘of which are saturated’. High saturated fat is equivalent to more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g and low saturated fat equivalent to less than 1.5g of saturated fat per 100g.