Healthy Fat guide

Fourteen years ago as a basic grade dietitian working with cardiac and overweight patients at St George’s Hospital in south London, the message was loud and clear. Low fat was the healthy way to eat and fat in the diet should be reduced.  Since then, studies have shown that certain fats actually have a multitude of health benefits. It’s perhaps frustrating that nutrition advice seems to be constantly changing, but, to think more positively, what we know about food and nutrition is constantly evolving.

Are you confused about which oils/fats to choose when you are shopping? Butter, Flora, sunflower oil, olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, walnut oil, sesame oil etc. etc. I will keep this brief:

Trans fats (hydrogenated oil)

Trans fats (hydrogenated oil)

STOP HAVING: Trans fats – these increase bad cholesterol, decrease good cholesterol. You can’t buy these in a bottle, they are found in some processed foods (often labelled as hydrogenated fat or oil).  This is a good reason to reduce processed foods, and to make your meals/snacks from scratch eg. bake these instead of buying biscuits.

Have LESS of:

Swap sunflower oil for olive or vegetable (rapeseed oil)

Sunflower oil – use less

  1. Saturated fats: increase bad cholesterol – found in meat, butter and animal products (ok to eat these in moderation as these foods provide some health benefits)
  2. Omega 6 PUFAs: corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower oil – generally we have too much of these, stopping the fabulous omega 3s from doing their job (see below)


  1. Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids: olive oil, rapeseed oil (usually labelled Vegetable Oil), avocados, nuts & seeds. These decrease bad cholesterol. If you’re watching your weight, don’t go overboard with the oils as these have 125 kcal per tablespoon.
    Vegetable oil good (rapeseed oil)

    Vegetable oil good (rapeseed oil)

    2013-09-11 11.50.38

    Olive oil good

  2. Omega 3 Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids: fish & fish oil supplements. Other sources: flaxseed/linseed, chia, hemp, walnut (the body cannot use these as well as the omega3 from the fish). Benefits for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, musculoskeletal pain, cholesterol (lowers bad cholesterol, raises good cholesterol), blood pressure, blood clotting, brain growth & development, inflammation conditions.



Salmon - omega 3 oils

Salmon – omega 3 oils

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4 Responses to Healthy Fat guide

  1. Amanda Stanley says:

    What about coconut oil, Sarah? Everyone jumping on the coconut oil bandwagon here, I’ve used it for Rory a bit. What do you think of it?

  2. Amanda Stanley says:

    Not sure if my last comment got sent? I was just wondering what your opinion on coconut oil was?

    • I think the incredible health claims should be taken cautiously. It has MCT saturated fat, which is marketed as it’s major health selling point, however, the jury is still out on this. Use in moderation, along with the other healthier types of oils.

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