Healthy fat choices
These fats help the cholesterol balance in your blood by decreasing the bad (LDL) cholesterol and increase the good (HDL) cholesterol. Replacing saturated and trans fats with healthier ones helps to lower your risk of heart disease.
A healthy eating pattern will provide a balance of fats – by including healthier unsaturated fats and limiting unhealthy saturated and trans fats.
Sources of monounsaturated fat include:
- almonds, cashews and peanuts
- cooking oils made from plants or seeds like canola, olive, peanut, soybean, rice bran, sesame and sunflower oils.
Sources of polyunsaturated fat (both omega-3 and omega-6) include:
- tahini (sesame seed spread)
- linseed (flaxseed) and chia seeds
- soybean, sunflower, safflower, and canola oil, and margarine spreads made from these oils
- pine nuts, walnuts and Brazil nuts.
Omega-3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat that, similar to other dietary polyunsaturated fats, reduce your risk of heart disease. Omega-3s can:
- lower heart rate and improve heart rhythm
- decrease the risk of clotting
- lower triglycerides
- reduce blood pressure
- improve blood vessel function and delay the build-up of plaque (a fatty substance) in coronary arteries.
Try to include omega-3 fats from all of these 3 sources as part of a healthy eating pattern.
Omega-3 is found mainly in oily fish like tuna, salmon, sardines and blue mackerel. Other good sources are fish like barramundi and flathead, and seafood like scallops and mussels. Try to eat 2–3 serves a week. Read more about fish.
Good sources of plant-based omega-3 include walnuts, linseed (flaxseed), chia seeds, and oils and spreads made from canola or soybeans. Aim to include foods that provide at least 1 gram of plant-sourced omega-3 every day. Read more about nuts and seeds.
For people who don’t eat fish, omega-3 capsules or liquids can also help supplement your intake.
Omega-6 is a type of polyunsaturated fat that lowers LDL cholesterol. Eating foods with unsaturated fat, including omega-6, instead of foods high saturated and trans fats helps to get the right balance for your blood cholesterol (lower LDL and increase HDL).
Getting the right balance of fats
Follow these easy ideas for getting the balance right.
Nuts are an important part of a heart-healthy eating pattern. They’re a good source of healthier fats, and regular consumption of nuts is linked to lower levels of bad (LDL) and total blood cholesterol. So, include a handful (30g) every day! Add them to salads, yoghurt, or your morning cereal. Choose unsalted, dry roasted or raw varieties.
Serve up some fish
Include fish or seafood in your family meals 2 - 3 times a week. Fish are great sources of the good omega-3 fats. See our fish recipes for some ideas.
Use healthier oils
Use healthier oils like olive and canola, and margarine spreads made from them, instead of butter when you cook. These small changes add up over time. Most recipes still work well if you do, and it’s a much healthier way to cook.
Switch to reduced-fat dairy
Making the shift to reduced fat milk, cheese and yoghurt is an easy way to remove saturated fat without compromising on calcium. In a year, you’ll get rid of 4 kg of saturated fat from your diet if you do this with 1 cup of milk, 2 slices of cheese and a small tub of yoghurt a day.
Milk, yoghurt, and cheese are healthy snack options and can contribute to healthy meals when eaten with vegetables, wholegrains or fruit. Dairy foods like butter, cream or other high-fat dairy products like ice cream should be limited.
What we recommend
All Australians should follow the Heart Foundation’s 5 Healthy Eating Principles which help to achieve the right balance of fats by including healthier unsaturated fats and limiting unhealthy saturated and trans fats.
- The Heart Foundation recommends 250-500mg of omega-3 (EPA & DHA) per week, and 1 gram of omega-3 (ALA) per day. A healthy eating pattern, including fish and nuts, is the recommended way to consume essential Omega-3 nutrients for heart health.
- See our tips below tips on how to include Omega-3 foods in your healthy eating pattern.
- Your health professional may consider omega-3 supplements if you have high levels of triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood) or have existing heart disease.
- The Heart Foundation recommends between 4-10% of energy from omega-6.
- The Heart Foundation’s Healthy Eating Principles promote a good balance of fats, including meeting omega-6 requirements, by including nuts, seeds and their oils (including sunflower, safflower, sesame, canola and to a lesser extent olive oils) regularly.
- As omega-6 is found in many types of oils, this means that it can be found in discretionary foods like biscuits, cakes and takeaway foods (in which oil is a substantial ingredient). The fact that Omega-6 can be found in these foods does not make them healthy.
All Australians would do well to consume less discretionary foods and beverages. As a whole, this group of products contributes the most saturated fat, trans-fat, refined carbohydrates and sodium to the diet which not only raise risk factors for many health complications but also take up space in the diet where healthy foods should be.