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Fat and health

Fat gives us energy and helps us to absorb certain vitamins. Different types of fats have different effects on health. The 3 main kinds of fat are unsaturated, saturated, and trans fats.

Choose Healthy Fats

oil Healthy fats are unsaturated fats and include monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and Omega-3 fats. Eating these fats in small amounts can lower your risk for heart disease when they replace saturated fat. Foods with unsaturated fats include:

  • Olive, canola, safflower, sunflower, and peanut oils, and margarines made from these oils
  • Nuts (almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds)
  • Avocados
  • Fatty fish like salmon, herring, mackerel, trout, sardines, and Arctic char

Tips to get healthy fats:

  • When you prepare meals, use fats like olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, or soft non-hydrogenated margarines made from these oils.
  • Use a soft non-hydrogenated margarine with 0 grams of trans fat.
  • Eat fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel and trout.
  • Choose up to ¼ cup (60 mL) of nuts a day. Eat these as a snack or to add to a salad.
  • Add ground flax, chia, or hemp seeds to yogurt, hot cereals, salads, or baked goods like breads or muffins.

Eat less saturated fat and avoid trans fats

Unhealthy fats are saturated and trans fats. These fats can increase your bad cholesterol, which can block your blood vessels. Having blocked blood vessels increases your risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Saturated fats include lard, the fat from beef, lamb, pork, or chicken, and high fat dairy foods. Limit saturated fats by:

  • choosing lean meats with no visible fat
  • limiting processed meats like side bacon, sausage, bologna, wieners, salami
  • limiting butter and lard
  • choosing lower fat cheeses (less than 20% Milk Fat) and lower fat milks (skim, 1% or 2 % Milk Fat)

Trans fats are usually created when liquid vegetable oils are changed into solid or semi-solid fats. Canadians are advised to eat as little trans fats as possible. See Cut out Trans Fats for information on how to avoid them.

Healthy Eating in the Community