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Unsaturated fat

oil bottles big There are two main types of fat found in food – saturated and unsaturated. Having unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat can help lower blood cholesterol and provide us with the essential fatty acids that the body needs.

So it’s a good idea to eat foods that are rich in unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat, as part of a healthy diet.

Foods that are rich in unsaturated fat

These foods are all rich in unsaturated fat:

  • oily fish
  • avocados
  • nuts and seeds
  • sunflower, rapeseed, olive and vegetable oils, and spreads made from these

Ways to eat more unsaturated fats

Here are some ways to eat more unsaturated fats, rather than saturated:

  • Try having oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon or trout, for your evening meal, instead of red meat.
  • Choose a spread made from vegetable oil, instead of butter.
  • Eat sardines on toast as a snack or light lunch, instead of a sausage roll or meat pie.
  • When you’re cooking, use unsaturated oils such as olive, sunflower or rapeseed, instead of butter, lard or ghee.
  • Snack on a few unsalted nuts, instead of other nibbles that can be high in saturated fat. But remember that nuts are high in fat.
  • Make cakes with vegetable oil, instead of butter.

Omega 3 fatty acids

Oily fish is the best source of omega 3 fatty acids. These fatty acids may help protect against coronary heart disease.

There has been some research suggesting that omega 3 fatty acids have other benefits, such as helping children’s learning. The Agency carried out a review of the available research on nutrition and the behaviour of schoolchildren in 2006. The review concluded that there isn't enough evidence to show that omega 3 affects children’s learning in general. However, there is some evidence that there may be benefits for some children with learning difficulties.

Some omega 3 fatty acids are found in certain vegetable oils, such as linseed, flaxseed, walnut and rapeseed, but these aren't the same type of fatty acids as those found in fish.

Recent evidence suggests that the type of fatty acids found in vegetable sources may not have the same benefits as those in fish.