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Fats in need of wings and a halo

Fats are a vital part of our diet where they provide some essential fatty acids, fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E & K and energy. However, not all fats are equal. In the last blog we explored saturated fats, which have a bad rap, where excessive consumption may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. You’ll be pleased to know that some other fats, unsaturated fats, can be nutritional angels and may reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes.

As a rule unsaturated fats tend to be liquid at room temperature and fall into two main types – monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated and can help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Olive oil, avocados and some nuts such almonds, brazil and peanuts are good sources of monounsaturated fats. These plant-based fats reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by maintaining good levels of “good HDL cholesterol’ while reducing levels of ‘bad LDL-cholesterol’ in your blood.

Some polyunsaturates can also help lower the amount of ‘bad LDL-cholesterol’. A type of polyunsaturated fat omega-3s are essential fatty acids, meaning our bodies cannot make them but have to acquire them from our diet. Omegas-3s have been well researched. In countries where people eat more oily fish, such as the Mediterranean, Greenland and Japan, fewer people have heart disease compared to countries where people eat less oily fish, such as the UK.

As we can’t make omega- 3s in our body this is why it is advised in the UK we eat 2 portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily and thereby consume omega-3. These oily fish with a source of omega-3 are salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and trout. Vegetarian sources include nuts and seeds, rapeseed oil, soya, tofu and green leafy vegetables though it is worth noting oily fish always has the richest source of these cholesterol lowering essential fatty acids.

In summary, fats can effect your health depending on how much and what types we eat. To stop us piling on the pounds fat should only make up a third of our daily energy. The type of fat is important too - in simple terms we should eat less saturated fat and replace it with unsaturated fats, including omega-3 fats,

Happy eating,

Nina Thomas

Registered Associate Nutritionist

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