Understanding Dietary Fats

February 5, 2020 at 1:44 am by

Dietary fats are one of the three macronutrients (nutrients we need in large quantities) required by the human body, in addition to protein and carbohydrates. They are important for optimal functioning of the human body, they provide us with a great source of energy, they carry fat soluble vitamins around the body, insulate our bodies, make us feel fuller for longer and assist in cell growth.

Fats are just over double the calories of proteins and carbohydrate (9 calories per gram) so yes, they are energy dense, yet imperative nonetheless. Due to their high caloric density, it is important to focus on your awareness on portion sizes, taking care to only select quantities that will meet your energy needs. Swap your bottled oils for sprays, be aware of the amount of nuts you are consuming and take note of how much avocado you are adding. Awareness is key!

Not all fats are created equal. Even though we have lived through the ‘low fat revolution’ it is important to recognise that not all fats are bad for you and that some have greater health benefits than others. These surprisingly complex fat molecules are broken down in the small intestine into their simplest form so the body can distribute, utilise and absorb them. With their digestion process taking the longest amount of time in comparison to carbohydrates and protein.




Saturated fats often come from animal sources such as meat, dairy, eggs and processed foods, but can also be found in some plant-based sources like coconut oil and palm oil. Lean meat and dairy products provide other important nutrients for your body and can therefore be a vital component within your diet. Foods high in saturated fats such as processed and discretionary foods have been linked to increased LDL blood cholesterol levels, leading to cardiovascular diseases, and should be consumed minimally.


Unsaturated fats are made up of either Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs) or Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs). These fats are found in avocados, nuts and seeds, cooking oils from plants such as olive, sunflower, peanut, sesame and fatty fish. Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s are found in PUFAs and can provide beneficial protection to our bodies such as helping to lower LDL cholesterol levels in the blood and decrease risk of clotting. Omega 3’s are found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna and also chia seeds, flaxseed and walnuts.

Eating a variety of these unsaturated fats (in small quantities) can provide the right cholesterol balance for your body, it can leave you satisfied for longer and provides you with some options for fats without feeling guilty!


Trans fats are processed forms of unsaturated fat and can increase levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL). They are often used to extend the shelf-life of processed products and are usually found in cookies, fries, donuts and cakes. This is the type of fat to steer clear of as much as possible.


  • Fats are important for optimal functioning of the human body, they provide us with a great source of energy
  • They provide transport for certain nutrients and vitamins to enter the blood stream. These fat-soluble vitamins—A, D, E and K—are stored in the liver and in fatty tissues, ready for functioning.
  • They keep us fuller longer
  • Eat Saturated Fats moderately, focus on unsaturated fats for their nutritional value, and keep trans fats to a minimum