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Fats in the Diet

Fats in the Diet

The types of fats we eat, what are they, should we be having them, how much, how often??? These are all common questions that leave people feeling confused and unsure of whether or not they are consuming the healthiest diet for their body.

There are two types of fats we find in food – saturated fat and unsaturated fats. Both types of fats have the same kilojoule value and therefore have the same effect on weight; however they differ in their effect to cholesterol and the risk to heart disease.

In this article we will look to explain the differences between these fats, what foods you find them in and including them in a healthy diet.

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are generally found in animal products such as meat and dairy. Consuming large amounts of saturated fats may contribute to increased cholesterol and an increased risk of heart disease. Foods that contain saturated fats include biscuits, cakes, pastries, takeaways, potato crisps, and fats from meat, skin and fat on chicken, cheese, full fat dairy.

Tips to reduce saturated fats:

  • Choose low fat dairy products
  • Trim the fat off meat
  • Remove skin from chicken
  • Limit pastries, biscuits, cakes
  • Limit takeaways such as hot chips, hamburgers
  • Avoid processed meat such as sausages and salami

Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated fats are a healthier source of fat and can be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. They are generally found in plant based products such as avocados, nuts, seeds, oils (olive, canola, sunflower etc) and fish.

Foods that contain unsaturated fats can have a positive effect on cholesterol by increasing your HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol, reducing your risk of blood clotting and reducing blood pressure. This has the potential to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Tips to include unsaturated fats in the diet:

  • Utilise avocados, tahini, nut spreads
  • Include fish 2-3 times per week
  • Have a small handful of nuts daily
  • Use olive oil, sunflower oil etc
  • Bake biscuits and cakes using olive oil/canola oil in place of butter

Making this relevant to aged care residents

The nutritional status of each resident in an aged care facility should be assessed on an individual basis. All residents will have different nutritional goals and priorities. For those residents where malnutrition is an ongoing issue restricting any type of food including fats is not recommended.

If the resident is recommended to follow a ‘heart healthy’ diet due to a history of heart disease but is also malnourished ensure unsaturated fats are used liberally in their diet.

For those residents who do not have any difficulty with high cholesterol or heart disease, it is recommended they enjoy all foods in moderation.