Fats explained

Cheese - British Heart FoundationAll fats are high in calories, so it’s important to bear this in mind if you are watching your weight. 

However, in terms of your heart, it’s important to think about the type of fat you are eating.

Swap saturated fats for unsaturated fats

Butter, lard, ghee, palm oil and coconut oil are all high in saturated fat.

Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which can increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease

Where possible replace saturated fats with small amounts of monounsaturated  and polyunsaturated fats

Avoid trans fats

Avoid these wherever possible. These fats are most likely to be found in foods such as biscuits, cakes, pastries and deep fried foods.

Trans fats occur naturally in small amounts in dairy foods and meat, however it is the industrially produced trans fats which have a similar effect to saturated fat, as they can increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood.

Have monounsaturated fats in small amounts

Have these in small amounts. Olive oil, rapeseed oil and spreads which are made from these oils, as well as some nuts and seeds, are all high in monunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats can help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

Have polyunsaturated fats in small amounts

Have these in small amounts. Soya, vegetable and sunflower oils, spreads made from these oils, nuts and seeds like walnuts and sesame seeds, and oily fish all contain polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and provide essential fatty acids.

Saturated fat guidelines

At the moment UK guidelines encourage us to swap saturated fats for unsaturated fats.  You might have seen reports about a recent study we helped to fund which suggests there’s not enough evidence to back the current UK guidelines on the types of fat we eat. We think more research is needed before suggesting any major changes to healthy eating guidance.


Top tips to help you reduce your saturated fat

  • Swap butter, lard, ghee and coconut and palm oils with small amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive, rapeseed or sunflower oils and spreads
  • Choose lean cuts of meat and make sure you trim any excess fat and remove the skin from chicken and turkey.
  • Instead of pouring oils straight from the bottle, use a spray oil or measure out your oils with a teaspoon.
  • Read food labels to help you make choices that are lower in saturated fat.
  • Opt to grill, bake, steam, boil or poach your foods. 
  • Make your own salad dressings using ingredients like balsamic vinegar, low fat yoghurt, lemon juice, and herbs, with a dash of olive oil. 
  • Use semi-skimmed, 1% or skimmed milk rather than whole or condensed milk.
  • Cottage cheese, ricotta and extra light soft cheese are examples of low fat cheese options. Remember that many cheeses are high in saturated fat so keep your portions small - matchbox sized. Opt for strongly flavoured varieties and grate it to make a little go a long way.