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All About Fat

  1. What is Fat? 
  2. How does Fat affect us? 
  3. Dietary recommendation 
  4. Good vs bad Fats 
  5. Understanding different types of Fat content in food labels 
  6. Tips for Reducing Fat intake 

 1.  What is Fat? 

Fat and oil are high in calories. When eating the same amount of fat and carbohydrate or protein, the fat we eat gives us double the amount of calories (9kcal per gram) compared to that of carbohydrate or protein (4kcal per gram).

Fat is often added during cooking or in the preparation of food products. It is one of the main parts of a complete diet and provides energy to the body.

 Fat is also needed to: 

  • take in and  transport fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K in the body. 
  • provide essential fatty acids (such as omega 3 and omega 6), which cannot be made by the body. 
  • protect important organs such as brain, heart, liver from sudden injury. 
  • keep the body temperature in the normal range. 
  • support the different functions of the body. 

   2.  How does Fat affect us?  

Around 25-30% of the total energy you take in should come from fat. For example, for a 2000 kcal diet, the recommended amount of fat you should take in is 55g-65g. Taking in more fat than needed will lead to a build-up of extra calories. If you keep on taking in more calories than you burn through physical activity, you will gain weight and increase your chance of being overweight.  The additional fat in your body can increase your risk of getting diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer.

3. Dietary recommendation   

 Description      Male  Female
 Total Fat   70g      56g
 Saturated Fat  Not more than 21g  Not more than 17g
 Trans Fat  Not more than 2g*      Not more than 2g*

 *  This is only a guide and the consumption should be kept to a minimum.

A 4g (based on 1,800 - 2,000 kcal diet) increase in trans fat can result in a 23% increase in the risk of heart disease.  

4. Good vs bad Fats  

There are bad fats and good fats.  Examples of bad fats are trans fat and saturated fat.  Examples of good fats are polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat.

Different types of fats 

Trans fat is formed when vegetable oils are hydrogenated or hardened to make them more stable and longer lasting. It increases low density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol) and reduces high density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol) levels in the body, thus increasing the risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Sources of trans fat in daily life are cookies, pastries and deep-fried food.

Saturated fat, when taken in in high amounts, raises the level of LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol in the body, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Saturated fat can be found in animal fat and full cream dairy products.

Polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat are examples of good fat. 

Polyunsaturated fat* can be classified into 2 main groups: 

  • Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce blood clotting in the arteries and protect arteries from hardening. They also reduce the triglycerides in the blood and in turn, lower the risk of heart disease. Good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, sardine, and Spanish mackerel (tenggiri papan), walnuts, canola oil and soybean oil.
  • Omega-6 fatty acids improve heart health by reducing both LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels in the blood.  Examples of omega-6 fatty acids are sunflower oil, corn oil and soybean oil.

Monounsaturated fat* lowers both total and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels in the body.
* Although monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are good for health , they should be taken in moderation since all types of fat have the same calorie content. 

5. Understanding different types of fat content in food labels 

Examples of the different types of fat content of "convenience foods".

 A Packet of Oatmeal biscuits with flaxseed and cranberryFat Cookie       

Reading the label: 

A packet of oatmeal biscuits with flaxseed and cranberry 

Each serving contains 0.5g of Saturated Fat which constitutes 17% of the Total Fat.

Each serving also contains 1g of Polyunsaturated Fat and 1g of Monounsaturated Fat. Soybean oil, sunflower oil and flaxseeds are rich in polyunsaturated fat and canola oil is rich in monounsaturated fat.

 A Packet of Cream Crackers
Fat A Pack of Cream crackers                                                                                                            


 

Reading the label: 

A packet of Cream Crackers 

Each serving contains 3g of Saturated Fat which constitutes 60% of the Total Fat.

There is no Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated Fat reported on the label.

Instant Vermicelli vs Instant Noodles 
Reading food labels also help us to compare between two similar food items. When comparing, we will look at the 'per 100g' column as the serving sizes for the two food items are different and therefore cannot be compared directly. 

  Fat Instant Noodles Vermicelli Mee hoon 

6.  Tips for Reducing Fat Intake 

  • Choose low fat dairy products over coconut or full-cream milk.
  • Remove any fat that can be seen and skin from poultry. If possible, choose lean meat over fatty meat.
  • Replace chicken rice or nasi lemak rice with plain rice.
  • Replace roti prata with chapatti, thosai or idli.
  • Choose steaming, grilling and / or even baking instead of deep-frying when you cook.
  • Choose products with a Healthier Choice Symbol - Lower in Saturated Fat

 Healthier Choice Logo 

  • Eat All Foods in moderation.
  • Taking in more fat than needed will lead to a build-up of additional calories.
  • Although monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats have health advantages, they should be consumed in moderated amounts since all types of fat have the same calorie content.
  • A diet high in saturated fat and trans fat tends to raise the level of "bad cholesterol" in the body, which increases the chance of heart disease and stroke.
 

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