Healthy fat choices
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, can help to 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
Choose a healthier oil for cooking. For salad dressings and low temperature cooking, choose olive oils, peanut, canola, safflower, sunflower, avocado or sesame oil. For high temperature cooking especially frying, choose olive oil or high oleic canola oil. These types of oils are more stable at high temperatures. Store oils away from direct light and heat and don’t re-use oils that have been heated.
What we recommend
All Australians should follow the Heart Foundation’s Heart Healthy Eating pattern to help achieve the right balance of fats by including healthier unsaturated fats and limiting unhealthy saturated and trans fats.
The Heart Foundation’s Healthy Eating Principles promote a good balance of fats by including nuts, seeds and their oils regularly.
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.