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  1. Food choices

    On a global level the main food sources of saturated fatty acids are fatty dairy products (like butter, ghee, whole milk, cream and fatty cheeses), fatty meats, animal fats (such as lard), fatty snacks (like cakes, pastries, fries) and certain vegetable oils such as palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil.

    All about fats

    The main modifiable sources ofindustrially producedtrans fatty acidsare partially hydrogenated oils that are found in some commercial baked goods, for example snack foods and in desserts. Beef, pork, lamb, milk butter and other milk products contain naturally occurring transfatty acids, which health effects have been less studied than industrially produced transfatty acids.

    Important sources of unsaturated fatty acidsare: vegetable oils such as soybean oil, rapeseed (canola) oil, sunflower oil and olive oil, as well as fatty fish, fish oil, nuts, seeds and products made from these, e.g. soft margarines and mayonnaise and derived products.

    Many food manufacturers have significantly reduced the content of saturated and transfatty acids in foods. Efforts to further decrease these  fatty acids in products are needed, where appropriate with a concomitant increase in the proportion of (poly)unsaturated fatty acids.


    • “The healthiest foods usually have the healthiest fats - fish, nuts and vegetables - eat them generously and often.”

      Joyce Nettleton
      DSc; Specialist in seafood nutrition and science communication
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    simple dietary changes

    Substantial benefits can be achieved when simple dietary changes are madelike:

    • exchanging full fat dairy products with low fat choices,
    • exchanging fatty meats with lean meats and fish, or vegetarian products
    • and using unsaturated vegetable oils rather than saturated animal fats in food preparation and food products.

    This will improve the fat quality of the diet and can contribute significantly to reducing the population risk of cardiovascular disease.


    good fats and bad fats


    • “Learning to switch from less healthful fats like butter, fatty cheeses or lard requires slow gradual changes to your diet so that you can adjust your palate and learn how to enjoy healthier fat options. Adding more plant foods like whole grains or vegetables to your meat dishes can make it easy to reduce the amount of meat in the dish – an easy way to lower saturated fat intake.”

      Connie Diekman
      Connie Diekman, M.Ed, RD, LD, FADA is Director of University Nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
    • *


    Dietary changes specific for various countries with different dietary habits can be found by looking at the food-based dietary guidelines from different countries. The FAO food-based dietary guidelines site is a good starting point.



    Links and references

  1. More about fats