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Fats & Oils


Fat is an important nutrient and plays many roles in helping the body work properly. It provides energy (calories), it helps your body absorb Vitamin A, D, E, and K, as well as helping your body grow and develop.  While you need fat in your diet, the amount and type of fat that you choose is important.

 Amount of fat for each age group
Children 1-3 years need 30-40% of calories from fat each day.
Children and teens 4-18 years need 25 to 35% from fat each day.
Adults 19+ need 20-35% of their calories from fat each day.

Unsaturated Fats: Eat a small amount each day

You need to eat some healthy fat (unsaturated fat) for your body to function properly. They reduce the levels of cholesterol in the blood, and help to protect against heart disease.

Unsaturated fats are generally liquid at room temperature. Some sources of this fat include olive and canola oils, and oil based salad dressings. They are also found in foods such as nuts, seeds, avocados, fish and non-hydrogenated margarines.

Consuming too much of any kind of fat, even the healthy fats, can provide excess calories and lead to weight gain. This can increase your risk of obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. Even the healthy fats should be consumed in moderation.

Look for these two types of unsaturated fats on the nutrition label: Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated

Saturated Fats: Limit the amount in a healthy diet

Saturated fat is found naturally in animal products (meat, poultry, fish and milk products) and a few plant products (coconut, palm and palm kernel oil), but should be limited in the diet. Saturated fat can raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, which could increase your risk for heart disease.

Choosing leaner cuts of meat and lower fat milk products (skim, 1% or 2% milk and cheeses with 21% M.F. or less) will help to limit the saturated fat in your diet. Using liquid vegetable oils and soft margarines (non-hydrogenated) instead of butter, lard and shortening will also lower the amount of saturated fat you are getting in your diet.

Trans Fat: Limit or avoid this type of fat

Trans fat is created during the processing of food. It is when the liquid oils are “hydrogenated” to make them a solid fat. This type of fat may also raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol, and lower your HDL (good) cholesterol levels, increasing your risk for heart disease.

Trans fat can be found in hard margarines (hydrogenated-usually blocks), deep fried foods, and baked goods made from hydrogenated fats (shortening and hard margarines).  Check the nutrition facts table to find how much trans fat is in a packaged or fried food. The example below shows where to find trans fat on the label.

The best advice? Choose whole foods such as chicken breast, baked potatoes more often, and avoid processed foods such as chicken nuggets, and French fries. When buying a packaged food, look at the Nutrition Facts Table to see what type of fats are in your food and how much is present.


Source: Health Canada: Fats: The Good the Bad and the Ugly
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