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Sugars and Fats

What are sugars and fats?

This group includes food such cakes, biscuits, sweet and lots more. We do need these to get high concentrations of energy but as you will have seen, sugars and fats take up the smallest portion of our 'eatwell plate'.

Fats

There are two types of fat - saturated and unsaturated.

Saturated fat is generally solid at room temperature and is usually from animal sources. Its found in lard, butter, hard margarine, cheese and whole milk.

Unsaturated fat is much better for you.

Good sources of unsaturated fats include:

  • Avocados (one quarter of an avocado contains 5g of unsaturated fat)
  • Unsalted nuts (cashew, brazil, pecan, walnut)
  • Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame).

Fats facts 

Fat is a concentrated source of energy. Just 1g provides nine calories - more than double the calories in 1g of protein or carbohydrate. 

This means it's much easier to consume too many calories when eating high-fat foods. People trying to manage their weight should reduce fatty foods to help cut calories. We all need some fat in our diets, but small quantities of fatty foods are the key to good health.

Fat transports the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K around the body. They must be supplied from the diet, and are thought to have a positive effect on heart-health and the immune system.  It cushions, and so protects, the internal organs. It has a key role membrane structure.

Fatty Acids

Omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids play an important role in the functions of the body that promote health and well-being.


In particular, studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids protect against heart disease. Oily fish is the best source of omega-3: salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, mackerel, pilchards and herring.  

Current advice is to eat oily fish two to three times a week. While oily fish is the best source of essential fatty acids, omega-3 can be found in most cooking oils.

Sugar  

You'd be amazed at how much sugar is lurking about in our food - even the food that doesn't taste sweet. It can do more harm to our bodies than most people realise. Here are a few facts about sugar and where it's hiding.

There are more than 7 teaspoons of sugar in the average can of cola.  

The average person in Britain consumes about 700g of sugar a week - that's 140 teaspoons!  

Sugar can even be in some baked beans and shop-bought pasta sauces.  

Sugar can cause tooth decay - so encourage poeple to clean their teeth regularly, especially after meals or sugary foods.  

Too much sugar means excess energy, which can lead to stored fat in the body. And this can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes

Where is sugar hiding?

There are lots of different words used to describe sugar - glucose, sucrose, fructose, maltose, corn syrup and honey - so it's not just the word 'sugar' that you need to look out for. With so much added to foods these days, it's hard to know what to buy.

Things like cakes, sweets, biscuits, jam, chocolate and fizzy drinks can be high in sugar, but some are worse than others. For example, wafer biscuits are a less sugary alternative to chocolate biscuits. And sugar-free versions are better still.

Another way to keep an eye on the amount of sugar in the food you eat is to read the nutrition labels when you're shopping or if you're eating out.

As a general guide:

High sugar is more than 15g per 100g 
Low sugar is 5g or less per 100g