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Face the fats: Everything you need to know about fats

Understanding which fats are good for us and which we should avoid can seem a little complicated, so we’ve asked nutritionist Laura Matthews to sort facts from fiction.

What do I need to know about fat?

We need fat in our diet for energy, and to help transport and absorb certain vitamins, but the type and quantity of fat is important. The main types of fat found in food are saturated and unsaturated fat. High amounts of saturated fat can increase your ‘bad’ cholesterol, which can increase the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease. Unsaturated fats provide essential fatty acids and help absorb fat-soluble vitamins that the body can’t make, so in small quantities they make up an important part of your diet. Most of us are eating too much saturated fat, so try some of these swaps or recipes to make a change.

Saturated and unsaturated fats: what's the difference?

Saturated fats often come from animal sources like red meat and dairy products. Many people eat too much saturated fat. Reducing consumption of saturated fat contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels.

Unsaturated fats can mostly be found in nuts, avocados and plant oils (coconut is an exception as it contains a lot of saturated fat), plus oily fish such as salmon and sardines.

Check out this Peanut salmon noodles recipe, which uses nut butter and less oil than usual, making it high in omega-3 but low in saturated fat.

1400x919 Peanut salmon noodles

MYTH: All fats are bad.

FACT: We need a small amount of fat in our diet. It helps the body absorb vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K.

Your daily recommended amount for saturated fat

For men, the recommended daily amount of saturated fat is 30 grams, while women are recommended a daily intake of 20 grams. It can be easy to eat too much. For instance, 100g Cheddar cheese contains more than 20g saturated fat, which can easily be reduced with simple ingredient swaps.

Reference intakes


Find these colour coded diagrams on our in-store products and below our recipes. Across your diet, balance any foods that have reds with ones that don't.

Fats: Sometimes labels can be red due to 'good' fats like those in oily fish, nuts or avocados.

Saturated fats: Cut down on these by looking for green and amber labels.

Red label: This appears when a serving contains 30% of your recommended daily intake. Try not to exceed 100% in one day. The fat in this Mexican-inspired rice bowl is mostly unsaturated. As it has a red traffic light, consider how much fat is in the other meals you eat so you don't exceed 100% of your recommended daily intake.

1400x919 Mexican inspired rice bowls

Swap shop – Reduce your saturated fat intake

It doesn't take a lot to reduce your saturated fat intake, all you need to do is make simple changes to your ingredients, oils or methods of cooking.

  • Swapping oil from the bottle, like olive oil or vegetable oil, for an oil spray greatly reduces the amount used. Unless using exact measurements we tend to over-oil our pans before frying, so using this method will help cut down on your daily saturated fat intake, as well as cutting down on being wasteful with your ingredients.
  • Instead of frying or roasting, why not opt for grilling, poaching or steaming? These cooking methods typically use little-to-no oil compared to frying or roasting, where the ingredients tend to sit in the surplus fats and absorb them. There are healthier options out there that taste just as good as fried or roasted food, like these grilled chicken Caesar flatbreads. If you combine these cooking methods with leaner cuts of meat, like skinless chicken or turkey breasts, the amount of saturated fats in your meals will be considerably reduced and you'll be noticing the healthier swaps in no time.
  • We all know how good a little bit of cheese can be as a topping, yet our fridge favourite Cheddar is high in saturated fats. But fear not, you can still get that cheesy goodness while keeping the saturated fat content low. Reduced-fat cheese is a readily-available alternative, while creamy cottage cheese brings a silky texture to your midweek meals, if you fancy.
636x418 Grilled chicken caesar flatbreads

Now that you know how to make the healthier swaps, why not check out what you can make?

See healthy recipes

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