Fats and Nutrition

UK government guidelines advise cutting down on all fats and replacing saturated fat with some unsaturated fat.

A small amount of fat is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. Fat is a source of essential fatty acids such as omega-3 – “essential” because the body can’t make them itself.

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

All types of fat are high in energy. A gram of fat, whether saturated or unsaturated, provides 9kcal of energy.

Most fats and oils contain both saturated and unsaturated fats in different proportions.

Saturated fats are found in many foods, both sweet and savoury.

Foods high in saturated fats include:

  • fatty cuts of meat
  • meat products, including sausages and pies
  • butter, ghee and lard
  • cheese, especially hard cheese
  • cream, soured cream and ice cream
  • some savoury snacks and chocolate confectionery
  • biscuits, cakes and pastries
  • palm oil
  • coconut oil and cream

Saturated fat guidelines

  • The average man should aim to have no more than 30g of saturated fat a day.
  • The average woman should aim to have no more than 20g of saturated fat a day.
  • Children should have less.

Food labelling

  • high fat – more than 17.5g of fat per 100g
  • low fat – 3g of fat or less per 100g, or 1.5g of fat per 100ml for liquids (1.8g of fat per 100ml for semi-skimmed milk)
  • fat-free – 0.5g of fat or less per 100g or 100ml

Saturated fat

  • high in sat fat – more than 5g of saturates per 100g
  • low in sat fat – 1.5g of saturates or less per 100g or 0.75g per 100ml for liquids
  • sat fat-free – 0.1g of saturates per 100g or 100ml

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