Why is Fat Important?
Despite its bad image, fat has many important functions in our body. Fat stores and provides energy when food intake is limited, aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamin A, D, E and K), surrounding fats protect vital organs (like kidney and gut) against physical shock and fats beneath the skin help preserve body heat. Fat is also a building block for hormones and cell membranes.
Fats also help the body use carbohydrates and proteins in a more efficient manner.
Healthy Fat Choices
All fats are not created equal. Unsaturated fat is considered ‘healthy’ fat and saturated fat is a ‘bad’ fat. Unsaturated fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Unsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature.
Monounsaturated fats help lower blood cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated fats are found mainly in olive and canola oils and foods containing these ingredients, and in nuts and avocados.
Polyunsaturated fats also help lower blood cholesterol levels. Two types of polyunsaturated fats include omega 3 and omega 6 and are very important for your health. Omega 3 fats are found in fish, flax seeds, walnuts, eggs and canola oil. Good sources of omega 6 fats are seeds, safflower, sunflower, corn and soybean oils.
Saturated and Trans fat are considered ‘bad’ fats mainly because they can increase bad or LDL cholesterol levels and trans fat has also been shown to lower your good or HDL cholesterol. It is very important to eat less saturated and trans fats. Saturated fat is mostly found in animal products and products with high amounts of dairy fat like butter, cheese and cream. Trans fat is found mostly in products containing hydrogenated vegetable oils. Trans fat is also naturally found in animal products and some dairy products. Saturated and trans fats are typically solid at room temperature.
Dietary fats provide 9 kcal/g which is more than twice the calories provided by either, carbohydrates or proteins. Therefore, it is a major determinant of the energy density of a particular food.
How Much Fat Do I Need?
The amount of fat a person needs depends on age, sex, body size and composition, activity level, family history and health status. It is recommended to reduce the amount of fat in your diet, especially saturated and trans fats. It is advisable to choose more unsaturated fat and consume omega 3 fat.
The recommended dietary guidelines by WHO/FAO suggest 15 to 30% of your total energy should come from fat, with less than 10% of energy coming from saturated fat, 6-10 % from PUFA (5-8 % form omega-6 and 1-2 % from omega-3), less than 1% coming from trans fat and less than 300 mg of cholesterol per day.
It is important to include fat in your diet, but you'll want to choose the right amount and the right kind of fat. If you're getting most of your fat from lean meats, fish, and heart-healthy oils, you've already made fat your friend!
Choose Your Fats Wisely
Use the Nutrition Facts Label as your tool for reducing transfat, saturated fats and cholesterol in your diet – which may help in keeping you healthy:
- Keep transfat consumption as low as possible by limiting foods that contain trans fats formed during food processing. Choose foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol for a healthy diet. Opt for skimmed milk and milk products like NESTLÉ SLIM Milk, NESTLÉ SLIM Dahi
- Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products and lean cuts of meat and poultry
- Cook and bake with vegetable oils instead of solid fats, like solid shortenings, butter etc Choose oils that are higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (eg canola oil and olive oil), and avoid oils that are higher in saturated fats (eg coconut, palm and palm kernel oils)
- Try baking, steaming, grilling or broiling instead of frying
- Eat foods that contain healthier fats, such as nuts (eg walnuts and almonds), seeds (eg sunflower and pumpkin), olives etc
- Get plenty of foods that are naturally low in fat, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables
- When eating out, remember to ask which fats are being used in the preparation of the food you’re ordering. You can also ask to see nutrition information available in many fast food or chain restaurants and choose a lower-fat option