There are several different types of fats. You`ve probably heard of vegetable fat, animal fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. All of these different names can be confusing, so it`s helpful to know what they mean, what foods contain
them and what they can do to your health.
Most of the fat in the food we eat is a mixture of three main types: Saturated, Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated.
There are also some other types of fat that you may have heard of such as Omega-3, Omega-6, trans fats and cholesterol.
Saturated fat is the type of fat that raises blood cholesterol and increases risk of heart disease. It is mainly found in animal foods such as fatty meats and dairy foods such as milk, cheese and butter. It is also found in some plant foods, including coconut and palm oil. Saturated fats are commonly used in commercially produced foods.
Polyunsaturated fat can help lower blood cholesterol and reduce risk of heart disease. It is mostly found in plant foods including sunflower, safflower and soybean oils, nuts and seeds. It is also found in oily fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats are types of polyunsaturated fats. Omega-3 fats are mainly found in fish and Omega-6 fats are mainly found in vegetable oils.
Monounsaturated fat can also help lower blood cholesterol and reduce risk of heart disease. It is found in lean meats, oils such as canola and olive, and other plant foods including avocados, nuts and seeds. Trans fats increase the risk of heart disease at least as much as saturated fat. Trans fats occur naturally in small amounts in dairy foods and meat and in some processed vegetable oils. The main sources are manufactured foods which use hydrogenated vegetable fats, such as baked products (e.g. pies, pastries, cakes, biscuits, buns), some commercially deep fried foods and hard margarines.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is an important part of all animals. Our bodies produce it naturally, even if we don`t eat it. Cholesterol is a problem when there is too much in our blood. Sterols and stanols are a plant form of cholesterol found in fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains. When eaten, they prevent our bodies from absorbing the cholesterol we eat. Recent advances in manufacturing have enabled them to be added in larger amounts to foods such as margarine, but they are present in small amounts in most plant foods.