While many of us are wary of eating too much fat, a healthy balanced diet actually requires a certain amount of it – fat provides the body with valuable energy and nutrients for various important functions. However, the kind of fat in the food we eat is also definitely something worth thinking about, when it comes to maintaining cholesterol at a desirable level, for example. Unsaturated fats, in particular, are considered a “good” fat, offering certain benefits as a replacement for “bad” saturated fat. So what is unsaturated fat?
A definition of unsaturated fat
Unsaturated fat is found in high amounts in nuts, seeds, oily fish, and vegetable oils such as sunflower, soya and olive oil, as well as vegetable oil-based soft spreads. Omega-3 and -6 are unsaturated fats.
What is unsaturated fat found in?
- Vegetable oils and vegetable oil-based soft spreads are good sources of unsaturated fat.
- Nuts and seeds don’t just contain “good” fats, but also fibre, another important component of a healthy balanced diet.
- Salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, and trout are all good examples of oily fish, which also contain unsaturated fats.
Why is unsaturated fat good for you?
It is well established that replacing saturated fat in your diet (found in full fat dairy and fatty meat products, as well as many prepared foods like cakes and biscuits) with unsaturated fat can help lower LDL-cholesterol, one of the risk factors in the development of coronary heart disease*.
How to eat more unsaturated fat and less saturated fat
- Snack on unsalted nuts. They make an easy snack on the go, perfect for replacing foods like pastries that are often high in saturated fat. A trail mix of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit is a handy way to eat a little more fibre as well as unsaturated fat. Avoid roasted nuts, however, as these often have added oils that add to their calorie content.
- Cook with vegetable oils such as sunflower or olive oil. Vegetable oils are an easy way to up your unsaturated fat intake as you prepare food, making them good alternatives to cooking with butter or coconut oil that are high in saturated fat.
- Replace saturated fat with unsaturated or reduced fat options. Dairy foods like milk, cheese, butter, and cream are often high in saturated fat, but can easily be swapped for reduced fat alternatives or alternatives with a better balance of saturated and unsaturated fat.
For example, the Flora ProActiv range includes skimmed milk and delicious vegetable oil-based soft spreads that also contain added plant sterols, an active ingredient that is clinically proven to significantly lower LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol. A daily consumption of 1.5 – 2.4g of plant sterols can lower cholesterol by 7-10% in 2 – 3 weeks as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle with sufficient fruit and vegetables.*
- Use seeds as toppings. Sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seeds are all readily available in most supermarkets, and are great sprinkled on top of salads, desserts, and cooked vegetables.
- Eat oily fish once a week. Oily fish is both flavoursome and contains plenty of unsaturated fat. Try eating fish twice a week, basing one of those meals on oily fish –a number of studies have indicated that fish Omega-3 can contribute towards the normal functioning of the heart.
Find more fish recipes here.
Want to find out more?
Check out our articles on saturated fat, the benefits of replacing saturated with unsaturated fat, or find out how to plan a cholesterol lowering diet here.
*High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease. There are many risk factors for coronary heart disease and it is important to take care of all of them to reduce overall risk of it.