Unsaturated Fats including Oils and Spreads

A small amount of fat is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. Fat is a source of essential fatty acids, which the body cannot make itself. Current UK government guidelines advise cutting down on all fats and replacing saturated fat with some unsaturated fat.

What is saturated and unsaturated fats?

Fat helps the body absorb vitamin Avitamin D and vitamin E. These vitamins are fat-soluble, which means they can only be absorbed with the help of fats.

Any fat that's not used by your body's cells or turned into energy is converted into body fat. Likewise, unused carbohydrates and proteins are also converted into body fat.

The main types of fat found in food are:

  • saturated fats
  • unsaturated fats

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are found in many foods, both sweet and savoury. Most of them come from animal sources, including meat and dairy products, as well as some plant foods, such as palm oil and coconut oil. A list of saturated foods can be found here.

Eating lots of saturated fat can raise your cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease.

Unsaturated Fats 

Unsaturated fats could be considered as ‘good’ fats and are predominately found in foods from plants, such as vegetable oils, nuts and seeds and fish.

If you want to reduce your risk of heart disease, it's best to reduce your overall fat intake and swap saturated fats for unsaturated fats.

There's good evidence that replacing saturated fats with some unsaturated fats can help to lower your cholesterol level.

Oils and Spreads

Although some fat in the diet is essential, generally we are eating too much saturated fat and need to reduce our consumption.

Unsaturated fats are healthier fats that are usually from plant sources and in liquid form as oil, for example vegetable oil, rapeseed oil and olive oil. Swapping to unsaturated fats will help to reduce cholesterol in the blood, therefore it is important to get most of our fat from unsaturated oils.

Choosing lower fat spreads, as opposed to butter, is a good way to
reduce your saturated fat intake. Remember that all types of fat are high in energy and should be limited in the diet.


Foods high in fat, salt and sugar – keep portions small!

Foods high in saturated fat, salt and sugar, such as crisps, sweets, biscuits, cakes, chocolate and sugary drinks, often known as 'treat foods', are not within the main food groups of the Eatwell Guide. 'Treat foods' are not needed as part of a healthy diet.

If you do include them, then it is best to have small portions – for example, those that provide about 100-150kcal, such as a small chocolate biscuit bar, 4 small squares of chocolate, 2 small biscuits, a small multipack bag of crisps, a mini muffin or a small chocolate mousse.

When it comes to sugary drinks it is best to swap these for water or sugar free versions.

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