Says the American Heart Association, dietary fats are essential to give your body energy and to support cell growth. They help protect your organs and help keep your body warm. Fats help your body absorb some nutrients and produce important hormones, too. Your body definitely needs fat. Fat, then, is an important part of your diet, providing energy and building blocks to make brain cells, cell membranes, sex hormones and even vitamin D. But knowing which types of fat to select, and which to avoid can be confusing.
There are four major dietary fats in the foods we eat: Saturated fats, Transfats, Monounsaturated fats and Polyunsaturated fats. The bad fats, saturated and trans fats, tend to be more solid at room temperature (like butter), while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats tend to be more liquid (like liquid vegetable oil). As in all aspects of a healthy diet, balance is key and dietary fats are no exception. Here are some pointers when using fats:
- Switch to lower-fat dairy products, like reduced-fat cheese, low fat yogurts, and skimmed or semi-skimmed milk to reduce your intake of saturated fats.
- Swap butter for small amounts of spread or margarine as this can help reduce your saturated fat intake. Spreads are also fortified with other vitamins and can help supplement your diet with key nutrients. Additionally, spreads made from seed oils contain essential fats, omega 3 & 6, these are fats that your body cannot make.
- Choose lean cuts of meat, poultry or oily fish rather than fatty or processed meat products. Make sure you trim any excess fat and remove the skin from chicken or turkey before cooking.
- When you do roast or fry food, try replacing your olive oil with low fat oils or spreads – some have 45% less saturated fat than olive oil.