Good Fats and Bad Fats
An acceptable range for total fat intake is 20-35% energy from fat, with saturated and trans fats together providing no more than 10% of energy intake. Fat is a rich source of energy and is important for carrying fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and certain antioxidants. Fats also supply essential fatty acids for healthy skin and have a role in regulating body functions.
However, eating too much fat (particularly saturated fat) can be harmful and increase the risk of diseases such obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Most people should be encouraged to limit their fat intake but young children under five years should not be on fat-reduced diets as they have relatively high energy needs for their body size.
There are two main types of fats: saturated and unsaturated fats. Fats that are saturated tend to be more solid at room temperature and can be found in milk, cream, butter, hard cheese, meats, coconut oil, and palm oil.
Fats that are unsaturated tend to be liquid at room temperature, such as those found in vegetable oil. Unsaturated fats consist of monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in foods such as oily fish (sardines and tuna), soyabean and walnuts.
Another type of unsaturated fat are trans fats. They are formed by the hydrogenation of vegetable oils during the manufacturing of some foods such as cakes, biscuits and other processed foods but are also found naturally in smaller amounts in ruminant animal foods. Trans fats tend to act like saturated fatty acids in that they can impact on health by adversely affecting cardiovascular disease risk.
It is advised that people replace trans fats in their diet with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fatty acids which help lower blood cholesterol levels. This can be achieved by eating less high fat processed foods and more fresh fruit and vegetables.