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Fat fighting – the health benefits of cutting down fat (UPDATED)

After we looked at the benefits of going sugar-free in February, we thought we’d follow up with a focus on the other ‘usual suspect’ when it comes to a healthy diet.

While scientists have recently been concentrating on making people aware of the health risks attached to consuming too much sugar, it’s worth remembering that you should keep an eye on your fat intake as well. It shouldn’t be a case of choosing which one you reduce, people should cut down on both.

So, in our ongoing crusade to improve workplace health and wellbeing, here’s our guide to fighting the fat out of your diet.

Fat facts

It’s worth noting that, like all things, eating some of the right fats is essential for a healthy balanced diet.

During digestion, fat is broken down into smaller units of fat called fatty acids. These include essential fatty acids like omega-3, which the body can't make itself. It also helps the body to absorb vitamins A, D and E. Any fat that’s not used is converted into body fat.

There are two types of fat found in food; saturated fats and unsaturated fats. Too much saturated fat in your diet can raise cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease.

Saturated fats

Foods high in saturated fats include:

  • fatty cuts of meat
  • meat products, including sausages and pies
  • butter, ghee and lard
  • cheese, especially hard cheese
  • cream, soured cream and ice cream
  • some savoury snacks and chocolate
  • biscuits, cakes and pastries
  • palm oil
  • coconut oil and cream

The average man should aim to have no more than 30g of saturated fat a day. For women, it should be no more than 20g of saturated fat a day. And children should have less.

Unsaturated fats

Found primarily in oils from plants, unsaturated fats can be either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated. Monounsaturated fats are found in:

  • olive oil, rapeseed oil and spreads
  • avocados
  • some nuts, including almonds, brazils and peanuts

There are two main types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-3 and omega-6.

Omega-6 fats can be found in vegetable oils such as rapeseed, corn, sunflower and some nuts.

Omega-3 fats are found in oily fish such as mackerel, kippers, herring, trout, sardines, salmon and fresh tuna.

8 tips to cut down on fat

Healthy, fat-free eating needn’t mean giving up your favourite foods. These small changes to your cooking and eating habits could help you cut the total amount of fat in your diet:

1.      Read food labels

When shopping, compare nutrition labels so that you can pick foods lower in fat.

2.      Leaner meat

Ask your butcher for lean cuts of meat and choose meat that has visibly less fat. Before cooking, trim any fat and take the skin off meat.

3.      Low-fat dairy

Choose lower-fat dairy products like semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, low-fat plain yoghurt or reduced-fat cheese.

4.      Cook fat-free

Grill, bake, poach, braise, steam or even microwave your food instead of deep frying or roasting it. Spoon off fats and oils from roasts, casseroles, stews and curries.

5.      Use less oil

Use non-stick pans to reduce the amount of oil needed. If you use oil, don’t pour it straight from a container, measure with a tablespoon or use an oil spray.

6.      Use less butter

For sandwiches and toast, use a low-fat spread instead of butter. Whatever you use, make sure it’s spread on thinly.

7.      Eat more fresh vegetables

More vegetables and beans in your diet can only be a good thing. They’re fat-free, high in fibre and packed with vitamins and minerals.

8.      Choose low-fat snacks

Replace cakes, biscuits, chocolate and pastries with fresh fruit.

The benefits of cutting out fat (UPDATED)

It's been suggested that cutting out saturated fats will reduce the risk of obesity, high blood cholesterol, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

However, it's important to remember that balancing your diet is also important, rather than cutting out fat completely.

A recent article from Healthy but Smart looked at the possible health benefits of saturated fat.

Exploring 20 scientific papers, it investigated the links between saturated fat and Alzheimer's, cancer, heart health, cholesterol and stroke-risk, so that people could make an evidence-based decision on cutting out saturated fat.

While, in many cases, the research was largely inconclusive, it did suggest that a low saturated fat diet might reduce bad cholesterol.

It concluded that the focus should be on which saturated fats to eat as part of a balanced healthy diet, rather than cutting them out completely.

Simply being more aware of how much fat is in your food can only be a good thing.

At Fusion, our occupational health surveillance can assess employees within an organisation to ensure that their needs are being met.

Give us a call to find out more.

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Categories: Health & WellbeingHealth SurveillanceNutritionOccupational Health

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