The fat issue

How much fat should you eat? Is fat bad for you? Should you spread real butter on your toast? There seems to be a lot of conflicting information today but the best advice we can give you is to eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes some natural fats.

Butter, full-fat yogurt, milk, cream – all these are fine in small amounts. In fact, your body needs fats to help it absorb the essential vitamins A, D and E. The key is to not eat too much. You should get about 30% of your calories (energy) from fat per day. Any excess fats not used by your cells or for energy are converted into body fat (just as excess carbohydrates and proteins are) and frequently eating more energy than you need, whether it’s from fat, carbohydrate or protein, increases your risk of becoming overweight.

Saturated fat (found in processed foods, bought baked goods, fatty red meat, butter, cheese, cream, eggs and coconut oil) can have a bad effect on your blood cholesterol, causing your blood vessels to narrow and increasing the risk of heart attacks or strokes in later life. Try to avoid eating large quantities of foods containing saturated fats.

Unsaturated fats contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels in the body. These are found in vegetable oils such as olive, rapeseed and sunflower oils, avocados, nuts and seeds. Polyunsaturated fats contain essential fatty acids like omega-3, which is important for a healthy heart and joints. Omega 3 is also good for your brain development. Good sources of this essential fatty acid are oily fish (mackerel, salmon, pilchards, sardines, kippers) and some seeds and oils (flax, linseed and walnut). Experts recommend that you eat one portion of oily fish each week.