There is so much talk about high fat, low fat, good fat, and bad fat that it can sometimes be confusing to know which kinds of foods we should and should not be eating more (or less) of.
Most people have heard of saturated and unsaturated fat, and many of us are aware that we should be eating less of the first and more of the second. But what exactly does this mean in practice?
Unsaturated fat is often described as ‘good fat’: when used to replace saturated fat in the diet, it helps lower cholesterol – one of the risk factors of heart disease*. Luckily, unsaturated fat is found in many foods that can be easily incorporated into a healthy diet. Need some examples of unsaturated fat-packed foods you can find easily in most shops? Here is a list of 12 popular (and tasty) foods that contain unsaturated fats, with some recipe ideas to help get you started.
Unsaturated fat: a foods list to try!
1. Almonds: A great snack when you are on the run, and a source of protein. Try taking a handful (around 30g) with you for mid-afternoon energy lows, or mixing with raisins for a tasty alternative to chocolate bars or puddings.
Smooth and delicately flavoured, avocados are for more than just guacamole.
Try spreading it on toast and sprinkling with olives or sliced vegetables for a quick and healthy breakfast. Avocado goes particularly well with smoked salmon on wholegrain toast, or in a Florida sushi roll.
3. Peanut butter: Another source of protein, and great with fruit. A sliced apple with peanut butter and some raisins make an appealing snack for kids. Alternatively, blend a tablespoon with a few soft bananas before freezing to make a delicious ice cream treat.
4. Vegetable oil-based products: If you’re wondering what foods contain unsaturated fats and can be used to replace butter – which is high in saturated fat – vegetable oil-based products are the answer. There are loads of great soft-spreads and cooking oils that use a blend of vegetable oils, helping you get more unsaturated fat into your diet.
Flora Cuisine is a cooking liquid made from linseed, rapeseed and sunflower oil that are rich in unsaturated fats, while Flora ProActiv spreads are good options for those of us who need to control their cholesterol**.
5. Walnuts: A great source of unsaturated fat that can be used in lots of different dishes. Walnuts are delicious in homemade muesli, or can be used to make a healthy Waldorf salad with walnuts, apples, and celery.
6. Sardines: A flavoursome type of oily fish with plenty of Omega-3, thought to help contribute to the normal functioning of the heart. Tinned sardines are particularly tasty spread on wholemeal toast with a drizzle of lemon juice. Just remember that tinned sardines are often quite salty, so read the packaging to ensure your portion contributes a reasonable amount of the recommended daily allowance, with enough room for any salt coming from your other meals.
7. Seeds: An easy snack on-the-go and great for vegetarians! Sprinkle seeds over salads, in cereal, include in a trail mix with plenty of dried fruits, or bake into flapjacks to up your vegetable Omega-3 intake.
8. Hazelnuts: Another source of protein, with plenty of crunch and a delicate nutty flavour – try toasting them in a pan without oil for a filling evening snack.
9. Macadamia nuts: Utterly moreish, these are excellent as a snack instead of chocolate bars or crisps. Make sure to go for the raw, unsalted variety, as commercial roasted macadamia nuts are often cooked in plenty of oil.
10. Salmon: Like sardines, salmon is an oily fish often recommended to help maintain good heart function. Versatile and boasting plenty of flavour, it’s often the first example listed whenever people ask for examples of unsaturated fats in foods. Try replacing red meat with cooked salmon: it’s great with a dab of pesto and boiled new potatoes, or with a dill sauce.
11. Vegetable oils: These can help you reduce saturated fats in your diet and increase the unsaturated fats. Examples of foods you could avoid by cooking with vegetable oils include butter and coconut oil.
12. Flax seeds: Another great source of Omega-3, although best eaten when ground to get the most unsaturated fat – add to porridge, muesli, or salads.
When planning to add the above foods to your diet, remember that foods that contain unsaturated fats can often be high in energy – avocados and nuts are quite calorie dense, something which should be taken into account when adding them to your meals to ensure your diet is balanced and within the recommended daily amount of energy.
There are so many options for ‘good fat’ foods that it’s increasingly easy to make the switch. For more helpful advice and cooking inspiration, check out our database of balanced recipes here!
* As coronary heart disease has multiple risk factors, more than one may need to be improved to reduce overall risk of it.
** Flora ProActiv contains plant sterols, which have been shown to lower blood cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease. Consuming 1.5-2.4g of plant sterols per day can lower cholesterol by 7-10% in 2-3 weeks when consumed as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. Individual results may vary.