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That’s right, we need fat! Fat plays an important role in our body, functioning as an energy store, a cushion for vital organs and a transport system for fat-soluble vitamins.

Fat is a Concentrated Source of Calories

Before you tuck into Kentucky Fried Chicken or order har cheong gai (deep fried prawn paste chicken), pause!

Eating too much fat may lead to weight gain and obesity which increases your chances of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes because fat is a concentrated source of calories.

Fat should make up about 25-30% of our total energy intake. Based on a typical 2,000 kcal diet, the total fat allowance is about 55 to 65 g a day.

More importantly, you should consume good fats over bad fats.

The “Bad” Fats

Trans Fat

Trans fat is formed when vegetable oils undergo hydrogenation, an industrial process that hardens liquid oil to produce fats like hard margarine and shortening.

Trans fat raises LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease.

The main sources of trans fat in our diet are:

  • kueh, pastries, cakes, cookies

  • commercially deep-fried foods

  • products containing vegetable-shortening and hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils e.g. margarine

Saturated Fat

A diet high in saturated fat raises the level of LDL-cholesterol in our body, which increases the risk of heart disease.

Major sources of saturated fat include:

  • animal fats (e.g. lard, fatty meat, skin of poultry)

  • high-fat dairy products (e.g. full-cream milk, butter, ghee)

  • food prepared with palm-based vegetable oil

The Good Fats

Polyunsaturated Fat

There are two main families of polyunsaturated fat: omega-3 and omega-6.

Omega-3 fat helps reduce blood clotting in the arteries, protects arteries from hardening, and reduces the level of triglycerides in the blood. This in turn lowers the risk of heart disease. Good sources of omega-3 fat include:

  • oily fish e.g. salmon and sardines

  • canola oil and soybean oil

  • products enriched or fortified with omega-3 (e.g. bread and eggs).

Omega-6 fat also helps improve heart health by reducing total and LDL-cholesterol levels in the blood. Good sources of omega-6 fat include:

  • vegetable oils (e.g. corn oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil)

  • seeds (e.g. sunflower seeds and sesame seeds).

Monounsaturated Fat

Monounsaturated fat tends to lower total and LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels in the body.

Foods rich in monounsaturated fat include:

  • vegetable oils (e.g. olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil)

  • most nuts (e.g. almonds, cashew nuts and hazelnuts)

  • avocados

Tips on Eating Fat

  1. Try to eat only good fats and in moderation.

  2. At home, choose oils higher in unsaturated fat. Use non-stick cookware to reduce the amount of oil needed when cooking.

  3. When eating out, limit deep-fried food to no more than twice a week.

  4. When grocery shopping, choose products with the Healthier Choice Symbol as they contain lower total and saturated fat compared to other products in similar categories.

Check out the booklet Fat Matters.