Saturated versus Unsaturated Fat: Your Essential Guide

Now we’re over the Christmas period, a lot of us are making healthy resolutions for the New Year. There are lots of different ways of improving what you eat, but with all the different fad-diets being launched at this time of the year it’s sometimes hard to work out which is best.

One of the most important issues when it comes to food it the amount of fat we consume. And as much as it might be tempting to think of it as just ‘the lower the better’ this topic is actually pretty complicated. To help you wade through all the information we’ve put together a handy guide to the essential information around dietary fat.
Is all fat bad for you?
No! Fat got a bad name in the 1980s and 90s with the low-fat revolution and a major increase in products marketed as low-fat. However, as we now know, not all fats are created equal. Rather than being a health burden, some are vitally essential to your body’s daily functioning and without inclusion in the diet can lead to serious body troubles. The main distinction is saturated versus unsaturated fats. In short, saturated is ‘bad’ and unsaturated is ‘good’. Although we should aim to limit our saturated fat the age-old saying “everything in moderation” most definitely comes into play.
Which kind of fat causes high cholesterol?
Saturated. This is the kind that when consumed in high levels over time can lead to an increase in LDL cholesterol. High cholesterol is strongly associated with health problems like stroke, heart attack and what’s called peripheral arterial disease or PAD. Saturated fat is found in cakes, biscuits, fatty meat and cheeses, amongst other foods. It’s why we’re often being advised to include less of these in our diets. In contrast, unsaturated fat can be found in a whole range of different items like nuts, seeds, oily fish and avocados.
How much fat should you have in your diet?
The NHS recommend that the average woman eats no more than 20 grams of saturated fat each day, while the average man should not consume more than 30 grams of saturated fat. To put that in context, there can be up to 10 grams of fat in a single large slice of meaty pizza. A typical burger will have around 6 grams, while one serving of vanilla ice-cream comes in at 4.5 grams. Always check the label of the foods you eat to see how much saturated fat they contain and plan your diet accordingly. Remember, you should include less foods high in saturated fat in your diet, not try to remove them entirely.
How can I eat more unsaturated fat?
By switching from saturated to unsaturated fat you can have a major impact on your health. There are lots of easy ways to do this. For example you could start by replacing butter with olive oil and red meat with oily fish. Try taking a handful of nuts to work as your mid-morning snack instead of reaching for a cake bar and if you’re just trying to avoid eating so much saturated fat, look to tasty drinks that will fill you up between meals  and add more fruit and veggies to your plate to cut back on carbs or big chunks of meat.

Those are just a few basic facts about saturated and unsaturated fat. There’s lots to learn about eating healthily, but more importantly lots of delicious food that will make sticking to your diet a pleasure, not a chore. Good luck!