Healthy vs unhealthy fat: what you need to know

There is an increasing awareness these days about the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. However, due to the fact that there is also a lot of information out there, people tend to get confused about what the right approach to healthy living is. There are different facets to healthy living and one of the most important is our daily diet.

In this post, we focus specifically on fats and oils and we try to answer those commonly asked questions people have.

What are the different types of fat we eat?

There are two main types of fats. There is the Saturated fats and unsaturated fats. Most fatty foods contain both types. However, the difference is in the amount of each type of fat contained in the food.

Foods high in Saturated Fats. Animal fat (meat, milk, wara, cheese), palm oil, coconut oil

Foods high in unsaturated fats. Most plant oils (olive oil, groundnut oil, sunflower oil), nuts, oily fish (Mackerel, sardines)

Do we need fat in our diet?

Yes. Fats form an essential part of a well-balanced diet. Fat helps the body to produce energy and also aids the digestive system in absorbing other nutrients from the food we eat.

How much fat should I include in my diet?

As a general rule, fats should not make up more than ⅓ of our total energy intake. This might be difficult to calculate especially where you do not know the number of grams of fat that is contained in a particular food. However, if you are eating packaged foods you would be able to see the nutritional content of the food on the label.

What type of fat is preferable?

Because the consumption of saturated fats can result in high blood cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart disease and strokes, it is preferable to go for food that is high in unsaturated fats.

What are the adverse effects of eating an unhealthy or excess amount of fats?

Eating excessive amounts of fats particularly saturated fats can result in high blood cholesterol levels and this can result in blocking of the blood vessels and ultimately result in heart attacks and strokes.

What are Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids?

These are types of unsaturated fats called polyunsaturated fats. They are essential for good health mainly because they help to lower the amount of bad fat in the blood, thereby helping to prevent heart disease and stroke.

Sources of Omega-3 fatty acids

  • Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines
  • Soya bean
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Walnuts
  • Cod liver oil
  • Some foods are fortified with omega-3

Sources of Omega-6 fatty acids

  • Vegetable oils
  • Corn oil
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts

How do I choose the best types of oils?

As previously discussed, it is preferable to choose oils that are rich in unsaturated fat and the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids than saturated fats. The graph below helps to illustrate the components of different types of oils.

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