1. What is fat?
Fat and oil are high in calories. They are 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:
- absorb 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 our body.
- protect important organs such as our brain, heart, liver from injuries.
- keep our body temperature in the normal range.
- support the different functions of the body.
2. How does fat affect us?
Each gram of fat that we eat provides us with 9kcal of energy. Each gram of carbohydrate or protein provides us with 4kcal of energy. This means that when we take an equal amount of fat compared to eating carbohydrates or proteins, fat would provide us with twice the amount of calaries. However, this does not mean that we should avoid fat in our diet.
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. This works out to be about 500 - 600 kcal from your fat intake.
If you take in more fat than needed, this will lead to an excess calorie intake. 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
Not more than 21g
Not more than 17g
Not more than 2g*
Not more than 2g*
* This is only a guide and the intake of fat should be kept to a minimum.
A 4-gram increase in trans fat, based on 1,800 - 2,000 kcal/day diet, 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.
- Is formed when vegetable oils are hydrogenated or hardened to make them more stable and longer lasting, such as margarine and shortening.
- 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.
- Can be found in cookies, pastries and deep-fried food.
- Raises the level of LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol in the body when taken in high amounts. This increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Can be found in animal fat and full cream dairy products.
Polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat are examples of good fat. 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.
Come in two main groups: Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Help to reduce blood clotting in the arteries and protect your 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.
- lowers both total cholesterol and LDL levels in the body.
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 cranberry
Reading the label:
A packet of oatmeal biscuits with flaxseed and cranberry:
Reading the label:
A packet of cream crackers:
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 instead of the "per serving" column.
- This is because the serving sizes for the two food items are different and therefore cannot be compared directly.
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
Updated Oct 2023