Frequently Asked
Questions

FAQ  >
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Why do we need fat?
Dietary fats are an essential part of a healthy diet. Fats provide energy, carry fat-soluble vitamins, contribute to the feeling of satiety after eating, and make foods more palatable. They are also needed for frying and baking.
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Does eating fat make me fat?
Fat is a necessary part of our diet, and contributes to energy intake. As long as total energy is balanced by energy expenditure (mostly physical activity), consuming a moderate amount of fat (20 to 35% of our daily energy - i.e. 45-75g fat/day for a daily intake of 2000kcal) will not make a person fat. However, eating many high-fat foods can contribute to the consumption of too much energy.
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Is a low fat diet good for me?
A healthy diet brings all types of nutrients in moderation, and this holds for fats as well. If you are trying to lose weight, reducing fat can help moderating calorie intake, provided it is not compensated by eating more sugars or proteins.
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Why are some fats called good and some fats bad?
Unsaturated fats are called good fats because they have a beneficial effect on our health. Some of them are called essential because we cannot do without them and our body cannot make them, so we need to get them from our diet. The good fats are needed to build our body cells, and they are important for chronic disease prevention, especially cardiovascular diseases. Saturated fats and trans fats are often called bad fats because they have been shown to increase blood cholesterol, which increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
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Which foods have good fats?
Important sources of good unsaturated fats are: vegetable oils (e.g. soybean oil, rapeseed (canola) oil, sunflower oil, olive oil), fatty fish, fish oil, nuts, seeds and products made from these, e.g. soft margarines and mayonnaise and derived products.
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How can I recognise saturated and unsaturated fats?
Saturated and unsaturated fats differ in their structure, which affects their visible properties. Most saturated fats are more solid at room temperature, whereas unsaturated fats or oils are soft or liquid.
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What are omega-3 and omega-6?
Omega-3 and omega-6 are the two families of essential polyunsaturated fats and are “good fats”. They can be found in various food sources such as vegetable oils (e.g. soybean oil, rapeseed (canola) oil, sunflower oil, olive oil), fatty fish, fish oil, nuts, seeds and products made from these, e.g. soft margarines and mayonnaise and derived products.
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Should I rather eat omega-3 from vegetables sources, from fish or consume supplements?
The omega-3 found in some vegetable oils (alpha linolenic acid) is essential: it cannot be made by our body, so we need to get it from our diet. The omega-3 found in fatty fish (EPA and DHA) can also be made by our body from the vegetable omega-3, however we typically do not make enough, so it is also important to eat enough fatty fish. A balanced diet provides the good fats needed, however in some specific cases, supplements can be appropriate.
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How much of the foods containing good fats should I eat?
For example, eating 80g/2.8oz avocado plus 10g/0.4oz olive oil plus 25g/0.9oz walnuts brings about 13g/0.5oz of PUFA (versus 19g/0.7oz recommended). Alternatively, preparing your mackerel (115g/4.1oz) in a tablespoon of liquid margarine (10g/0.4oz) and using vinaigrette made of vegetable oil (30g/1.1oz) with some added pine nuts delivers in total 12g/0.4oz of PUFA. In addition, eating 1-2 portions of fish per week (including fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon) enables you to get enough long chain omega-3 that are difficult to find elsewhere.
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Which foods have bad fats?
The main sources of saturated fats are fatty dairy products (like butter, ghee, cream, whole milk and fatty cheeses), fatty meats (such as sausages, salami, fatty beef cuts), animal fats (such as lard), fatty snacks (like cakes, pastries, fries) and certain vegetable oils (palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil). The main common sources of trans fats are partially hydrogenated oils found in commercially baked goods, snacks and fried foods and in low quality frying oils and margarines. Beef, pork, lamb, milk butter and other milk products also have naturally occurring trans fats.
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What are trans fats?
Trans fats are another category of fats and have been shown to increase the "bad" and decrease the "good" blood cholesterol. Trans fats can be found in foods containing partially hydrogenated oils and fats like industrially baked goods, snacks and fried foods. Vanspati, mainly used as a replacement of ghee in India and Pakistan, is also relatively high in industrial trans fats. Natural trans fats are also present in meat such as beef, pork or lamb and in dairy products from ruminant animals (e.g. cattle and sheep). Their health effects have been less studied.
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Should I stop eating the foods containing bad fats?
We do not need to stop eating foods containing saturated fats. Instead, it is preferable to limit the amounts we consume and eat reasonable portion sizes. Foods rich in saturated fats also contain useful nutrients. For example, milk and yoghurt contain saturated fats but also calcium that we need for our bones. Simple dietary changes can help us limit our saturated fat intake and increase the proportion of our polyunsaturated fats: - exchanging full fat dairy products with low- or free-fat choices, - exchanging fatty meats with lean meats and fish, or vegetarian alternatives - and using unsaturated vegetable oils in food preparation and food products rather than saturated animal fats.
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What is best to cook with: butter, olive oil, margarine or sunflower oil?
Cooking habits are very dependent on culture and taste preferences. However, the general advice is that cooking with more liquid or soft fat products is healthier than cooking with hard fat. So cooking with rapeseed (canola) oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, liquid margarine or soft spread is healthier than cooking with butter, ghee, hard margarine, palm fat or coconut oil.
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I have high blood cholesterol – should I cut fat from my diet?
No, to maintain a healthy blood cholesterol level, it is more important to improve the quality of fat you eat: replace saturated fats by (poly)unsaturated fats.
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Should I pay attention to the fat my children are eating?
Yes, essential fats are especially needed during childhood because they are building blocks of cell membranes and tissues. So the recommendations for adults are also appropriate for children: limit the foods high in saturated fat and replace them by foods high in (preferably poly)unsaturated fats. And of course, the total amount of calories that children eat should be balanced with appropriate exercise and physical activity to maintain healthy growth and weight.
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Are there specific foods I should eat or avoid during pregnancy or breastfeeding related to their fat content?
The general advice to limit the foods high in saturated fat and replace them by foods high in (poly)unsaturated fats is also true when pregnant or breastfeeding. The preferred nutrition for infants is breast milk (breastfeeding). Human milk provides the essential fats needed during infant and child development for growth, brain development and other tissue functions. The mother's intake of essential fats, especially DHA, provides the fats the foetus needs, especially in the last trimester. International experts recommend that pregnant and nursing women consume at least 200 mg/0.007oz of DHA per day.