To help reduce the risk of heart disease try reducing your overall fat intake as well as choosing the right fats to eat. Replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat and the omega 3 fatty acids found in oil-rich fish can help lower cholesterol levels.
We do need some fat in our diets as it helps our bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins. But remember that all fats contain a lot of calories and consuming too many calories can lead to weight gain.
Saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood, which increases the chances of developing heart disease. It’s a good idea to cut down on foods which are high in saturated fat like:
meat (especially fatty cuts of meat) and meat products like sausages and pies
butter, ghee and lard
cream, soured cream, crème fraîche and ice-cream
cheese, especially hard cheese
pastries, cakes and biscuits
coconut oil, coconut cream and palm oil.
Good to know
UK health guidelines recommend that:
men should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day
women should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day
We need to eat some fat to help our bodies absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. Try replacing saturated fats with healthier unsaturated fats and omega 3 fats found in oil-rich fish to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease. Remember that all fats contain a lot of calories: eating too much of any fat can increase the risk of becoming overweight. Unsaturated fats are mostly found in oils that come from plants:
sunflower, rapeseed, olive and vegetable oils and spreads
nuts and seeds.
Good to know
It’s easy to swap saturated fats for healthier unsaturated fat.
Use unsaturated oils like olive, sunflower or rapeseed oil instead of butter, lard and ghee for cooking
Make mashed potato with a small amount of olive oil and garlic instead of butter and milk
Choose reduced fat spreads rather than butter for your morning toast
Eat oil-rich fish rather than sausages or meat pies
Omega 3 fatty acids
Oil-rich fish is the best source of the omega 3 fatty acids that protect against heart disease. We should all aim to eat two portions of fish a week and one should be an oil-rich fish like mackerel, salmon or herring.
Trans fats raise blood cholesterol which increases the risk of heart disease. Low levels of trans fats are found in many foods that come from animals, like meat and dairy products. They are also found in food containing hydrogenated vegetable oil, but UK manufacturers have lowered levels of hydrogenated vegetable oil in many foods to reduce trans fat. In Scotland we eat more saturated fats than trans fats, so we should focus on reducing the amount of saturated fats in our diet.
Understand the label
Checking the labels on your food is one way to cut back on fat. Try to choose food with less fat overall, as well as less saturated fat.
Good to know
On food labels, saturated fat is sometimes called saturates or sat fat.
High fat means there’s more than 17.5g of fat per 100g of food
Low fat means 3g or less of fat per 100g of food (1.5g per 100ml of liquids)
Fat free means there is 0.5g or less per 100g or 100ml
High in saturated fat means there’s more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g of food
Low in saturated fat means 1.4g of saturates or less per 100g of food (0.75g per 100ml of liquid)
Saturated fat free means 0.1g of saturated fat per 100g or 100ml
Good to know
There are lots of ways to eat less fat.
Check labels and choose lower fat products
Choose lean cuts of meat and cut off any visible fat
Grill, bake, poach or steam rather than frying or roasting – you won’t need to add any extra fat
Add extra vegetables, beans or pulses to meals – you can use less meat and it’s cheaper too
Measure cooking oil with a spoon or use an oil spray rather than pouring oil straight into the pan
If you are making a pie reduce the amount of pastry you use by only having a lid
Experiment with sandwiches. Using a light version mayonnaise or salad cream means you may not need to add butter or spread
If you do use spread choose a reduced fat version and take it out of the fridge for a few minutes before you need it, so it’s easier to spread thinly
Choose lower fat dairy food like semi-skimmed, 1% or skimmed milk, reduced fat yoghurt or low-fat cheese
Try grating your cheese or using a stronger flavoured cheese as you tend to use less