We are sure you’ve all heard the term ‘healthy fats’ being used by nutritionists and fitness models alike recently, but what does this really mean?!
Here at IdealFit, we know how confusing all the terms like ‘polyunsaturated’, ‘mono-unsaturated’ and ‘omega 3 fatty acids’ can be, so we have created this blog to help explain the mysterious term ‘healthy fats’!
What is Fat?
Fat, one of the three main macronutrients* found in foods, is essential IN MODERATION for a healthy, balanced diet. The fat found in foods is a source of fatty acids – vital nutrients that your body cannot produce on its own – which provide you with energy and help your body to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K!
These are the main types of fat that you find in foods and oils:
Trans Fats: BAD
Most commonly found in hydrogenated vegetable oil, trans fat is often considered to be the worst fat you can eat, as it raises your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) ‘bad’ cholesterol and lowers your HDL (high-density lipoprotein) ‘good’ cholesterol!
So, when we talk of ‘bad’ fat: this is the worst kind: avoid these when you can – but don’t forget to allow yourself to have treats occasionally!
BE CAREFUL: lots of foods contain hidden trans fats – like cinema popcorn, frozen pizzas and even some cereal bars – so make sure to read the labels!
UK government’s RDA for women: no more than 5g of trans fats a day!
Saturated Fats: NOT-SO-BAD
Mostly found in animal sources (such as meat and dairy products), saturated fat is solid at room temperature! High levels of saturated fat in any diet can raise levels of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol – a fatty substance found in the body, which in too high levels can clog up your artery walls, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke!
HOWEVER: Saturated fats are often given a pretty bad rep, but some saturated fats have great health benefits when consumed in moderation: for example, Coconut oil!
UK government’s nutrient reference value (NRV) of saturated fat for women: no more than 20g a day!
Unsaturated Fats (Healthy Fats): GOOD (in moderation!)
These are what people are referring to when they talk about ‘healthy’ fats – swapping saturated fats for unsaturated and consuming them in moderation can help lower cholesterol! Unsaturated fats are either:
- Monounsaturated Fats – these raise levels of ‘good’ cholesterol and reduce levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol!
- Polyunsaturated Fats – These also help lower the level of ‘bad’ cholesterol! The two main types of polyunsaturated fats are omega-6 fats, found in vegetable oils, and omega-3 fats, which are found in oily fish! While most of us get enough omega-6 in our diet, the NHS advise us to try and up our intake of omega-3!
At the bottom of this blog you can find a list of our favourite sources of ‘healthy’ fats to add into your diet!
HOWEVER: any fat that is not used by your body is then converted into body fat! That is why it is important to try and consume the ‘healthy’ fats in moderation! But what does ‘in moderation mean!? Below we have explained how to work out roughly how much ‘healthy’ fat you should be consuming a day!
How much fat should I be eating a day?
1g of Fat = 9 Calories
It is recommended that adults should get 20-30% of their total daily calories from fat, and only up to 7% from saturated fats, but what does this mean?
Women should consume around 2000 calories a day on average – this varies depending on age, levels of physical activity and whether you are trying to maintain, lose or put on weight. So an average woman consuming 2000 kcals a day should be consuming 400-600kcals a day from fat – which would mean consuming around 44-66g of fat a day.
- All fats should be consumed in moderation!
- This intake should primarily come from unsaturated, ‘healthy’ fats, and you should really try to limit your intake trans fats and saturated fats!
- Calorie counting should not take over your life – if you don’t meet exact fat consumption levels or eat one too many packets of crisps on a Sunday night it is not the end of the world!
- Allowing yourself to have treats will improve your mental wellbeing and means you are more likely to stay on track in the long run!
IdealFitUK’s top 5 healthy fat sources
Below we have listed are top 5 favourite sources of healthy fats: