The facts about fat

Nutritional fat has a bad rap stemming from the 1980s when it was thought that high-fat content in our foods was responsible for weight gain. While fat is higher in energy (kilojoules) than other nutrients, we now know fats are an essential part of a healthy diet. But not all fats are made equally, so it’s important to choose or make foods with the healthiest fats.

There are four different kinds of fats:

  • Monounsaturated fats
  • Polyunsaturated fats
  • Saturated fats
  • Trans fats

Monunosaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fats are one of the two types of unsaturated fats, which are the healthiest fats. Monounsaturated fats are thought to be healthy as they help the body lower ‘bad’ cholesterol while maintaining levels of ‘good’ cholesterol.

Monounsaturated fats can be found in:
  • Olive and canola oil
  • Avocados
  • Nuts such as almonds and cashews

Polyunsaturated fats

Polyunsaturated fats are the second type of unsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats can help lower overall cholesterol, and may reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. There are two types of polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 and omega-6.

Omega-3 fats can be found in:
  • Oily fish (recommended source)
  • Canola
  • Walnuts, pumpkin seeds, linseed
  • Tofu
Omega-6 fats can be found in:
  • Safflower, sesame and soybean oil
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sesame seeds

Saturated Fats

Saturated fat is solid at room temperature, so you might have heard it called ‘solid fat’. Eating higher amounts of saturated fats is linked with an increased risk of heart disease and high cholesterol levels. They’re commonly, but not exclusively, found in animal products.

Saturated fats can be found in:
  • Fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb
  • Chicken skin
  • Processed meats
  • Palm oil
  • Coconut milk and cream
  • Cooking margarine
  • Cakes, muffins and biscuits
  • Pastries and pies
  • Deep fried foods
  • Ice-cream

Trans Fats

Trans fats are unsaturated fats that have been processed, so they behave like saturated fats. This is done to harden fats and oils.

Eating trans fats increases your levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol and decreases the levels of ‘good cholesterol in the body, increasing your risk fact for heart disease. Lowering the amount of trans fats you eat by replacing them with unsaturated fats will improve your health and decrease your risk of heart disease.

Trans fats can be found in:
  • Fried fast food
  • Cakes and biscuits
  • Butter
  • Pies, pasties, sausage rolls
  • Doughnuts

Trans fats are not required to be listed on the nutritional label in Australia, so it’s important to check the ingredients listed. Look out for any foods with “hydrogenated oils” in the ingredients list. This means they contains trans fats.

Good fats are an essential part of a healthy diet, and will keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer than carbohydrate foods. If you’re looking for inspiration, the Mediterranean Diet incorporates plenty of healthy fats while limiting processed foods and unhealthy fats (such as those found in meat products), which can help with weight loss, cardiovascular risk and risk of type 2 diabetes.

If you’d like to know more about incorporating healthy fats into your diet call an Accredited Practising Dietition on the NDSS Helpline on 1300 136 588.

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