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Has a notorious reputation in the world of food. However it is a vital component for a healthy life and body and needs to be consumed in moderation and balance. Our bodies use fat as an important source of energy second only to carbohydrate. It also plays an important role in carrying essential fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, and K. Fats assume the role of the villain only when eaten in excessive amounts. The average UK diet is high in saturated fats, which studies have shown can lead to serious health issues such as obesity and heart disease. Check whether you have a healthy weight on our BMI Calculator.

The different types of fat within a diet fall into three broad categories, saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. The terms signify the chemical composition of the fat in question, the saturation of a fat is indicated by the amount of hydrogen atoms attached to the fat molecule.

Saturated fats are easily recognised because they usually go solid at room temperature and are usually derived from animal sources, obvious examples being, Ghee (butter), margarine and lard. The fat molecules in saturated fats are covered in hydrogen molecules. Over consumption of saturated fat over a long period of time is linked to diseases such as obesity and high blood cholesterol that can lead to coronary heart disease. Food stuffs like meat, dairy product, whole milk, cream, eggs, confectionery, coconut oil, biscuits, crisps, pastries, certain fried foods such as pakoras and samosas, are the main culprits for high saturated fat content. Health experts have suggested that saturated fat should comprise of no more than 10% of the total calories within a daily diet.

Polyunsaturated fats are sometimes considered the good guys, polyunsaturated fats are different in make up to saturated fats. The fat molecule is not completely covered in Hydrogen atoms and they are liquids at room temperature. They are known for being beneficial to health and provide certain fatty acids that the body cannot manufacture from other fats. Once again the notion of balance is important and excessive intake of polyunsaturated fats in frying can also have harmful affects. Polyunsaturated fats from fish, known as Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce cholesterol levels, arthritis, joint problems and the risk of heart disease and cancer if eaten moderately. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in oily fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon, polyunsaturated spreads and sunflower/corn oil.

Monounsaturated fats have fat molecules that have one space unoccupied by a hydrogen molecule. It is now believed that this type of fat can help reduce the risk of health problems such as heart disease. The Mediterranean diet is known for being rich in monounsaturated fats. Olives, olive oil, groundnut oil, canola oil and avocados are good sources.

Fats are energy dense and have more calories per gram than any other food source (approx 9 Kcal per gram). This means we can unknowingly consume excess amounts, which is in turn detrimental to long-term weight control. Recommended intake of fat is approximately 30% of daily calories (less if you have weight/heart problems). So for women who consume 2000 calories a day, fat intake is 70 grams and for a man who consumes 2500 calories it is 90 grams. Remember saturated fat should account for no more than 10% of daily calorie intake. Help yourself by using semi-skimmed milk, trimming your meat of excess fat, using low fat spread instead of butter/margarine.
Steam, oven or grill instead of frying, cut down on red meat whilst eating more chicken and fish, cook with olive/sunflower oils, avoid biscuits, cakes, crisps & biscuits and keep an eye on fat content by reading food labels.