Guide To Fats : The Good vs Bad

September 28 2017

Fat is an essential part of our diet and is important for good health.

There are different types of fats, and some are healthier than others.

Unsaturated fats are healthy fats and are an important part of a healthy diet. These fats help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels when they replace saturated fats.

There are two main types of unsaturated fats: polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats.

Polyunsaturated fats:

  • Omega-3 fats which are found in oily fish such as salmon, sardines, and anchovies as well as walnuts, canola oil, soy products, flaxseeds and omega-3 enriched eggs
  • Omega-6 fats which are found in some oils such as safflower and soybean oil, along with some nuts, including brazil nuts

Monounsaturated fats:

  • Found in olive and canola oil, avocados and some nuts, such as cashews and almonds

Saturated fats aren’t so healthy, and eating greater amounts of saturated fat is linked with high blood cholesterol levels, which is a risk factor for heart disease. These fats are solid at room temperature and are found in:

Animal-based products

  • Dairy foods – such as butter, cream, ice-cream, regular-fat milk, custard, and cheese
  • Meat – such as fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb, processed meats like salami, and chicken (especially chicken skin)

Some plant-derived products

  • Palm oil
  • Coconut oil, milk, and cream
  • Cooking margarine.

Also found in processed foods such as:

  • Fatty snack foods
  • Deep fried takeaway foods e.g. hot chips, chicken nuggets, spring rolls, battered/crumbed fish
  • Packaged cakes and biscuits
  • Pastries and pies.

Trans fats are unsaturated fats that have been processed and behave like saturated fats inside the body. Consumption of manufactured trans fats increases the level of bad cholesterol and decreases the level of good cholesterol in the body, posing a major risk to heart health. It is important to lower the amounts of trans fats you eat to help improve your health and lower the risk of developing heart disease.

Trans fats are found in many processed foods such as deep-fried foods, some takeaway meals, commercially baked goods like pies, pastries, cakes, and biscuits. Spreads and most kinds of margarine can also contain trans fats, however, here in Australia, almost all kinds of margarine contain only a very small amount of trans fat. When buying any of the products listed above, check the labels for trans fats which may be described as ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable fats/oils’.

Fat is needed in our diet as it provides us with fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids. To help make sure you stay healthy, it’s best to choose mainly healthy fats, in moderate amounts.


Sourced from Dieticians Association of Australia.