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Kinky Fat Facts

Fats are the most compact form of energy for the body, weighing in at 37kJ per gram of fat. To put this into perspective, the kJ content of other macronutrients are as follows



· Alcohol = 29kJ per gram

· Protein = 16kJ per gram

· Carbohydrates = 16-17kJ per gram

· Fibre = 8kJ per gram


The three types of fat that exist naturally are monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids. It is recommended that 20-35% of your diet come from these types of fats.


What are the differences between the types of fat?


Polyunsaturated fatty acids

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (also known as omega 3, 6 and 9) are made up of several double or triple bonds (otherwise known as kinks) in its chemical structure. Polyunsaturated fatty acids must be included in your diet because the human body does not make these types of fat on its own. Foods rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids include:

  • oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines and other

  • soybean, sunflower, safflower, canola oil, and margarine made from these oils

  • linseed

  • chia seeds

  • walnuts

  • pine nuts

  • brazil nuts

  • small amounts in leafy vegetables and legumes

  • tahini

Monounsaturated fatty acids


The main monounsaturated fat, oleic acid, has one double bond (kink). Foods rich in monounsaturated fatty acids include:

  • cooking oils made from plants/seeds (e.g. olive, canola, peanut, soybean, rice bran, sesame and sunflower oils

  • avocado

  • cashew

  • almonds

  • peanuts

Saturated Fat

The chemical composition of saturated fatty acids has zero double bonds (or kinks) and is fully saturated with hydrogen. This means they can easily stack against each other to form fatty plaques in arteries, which can eventually cause heart disease.


Too much saturated fat in the diet has been suggested to increase blood cholesterol, particularly the low density lipo-protein (LDL) aka, the "bad" cholesterol linked to heart disease. Saturated fat is found in

  • meat

  • cheese

  • butter/cream

  • pastries, pies, cakes

  • animal, coconut and palm oil

The National Heart Foundation suggests aiming for less than 10% of your energy intake from saturated fats. However, recent evidence suggests that the relationship between saturated fat and heart disease is not as linear as it once seemed.


Reviews of the latest evidence suggests overall diet quality has a more protective effect on heart health than reducing a single nutrient e.g. saturated fat. Much of the research regarding hearth health leans towards opting for a diet like that of the ‘Mediterranean diet’ full of wholegrains, fruit, vegetables, olive oil and nuts.


Following a diet rich in monounsaturated, polyunsaturated fats along with vitamins, minerals, fibre, polyphenols (found in a range of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, tea, coffee and wine) and lycopene (found in tomatoes, guava, watermelon) can:

  • reduce inflammation

  • reduce fasting glucose

  • reduce blood pressure and risk of thrombosis

  • reduce body weight

  • reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol

  • increase short chain fatty acids linked to improved metabolic and mental health

Trans- fatty acids

Trans fatty acids can occur naturally in animal foods and are synthesized during food processing by adding a hydrogen to liquid oils to become ‘solid’. Artificial trans-fats are found in deep-fried fatty foods, biscuits, cakes and pies. Evidence suggests that this type of fat also causes an increase in LDL cholesterol. The heart foundation recommends having less than 1% of energy coming from trans- fat.


Benefits of having a diet rich in mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats


  • Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) require fat for absorption

  • Lowers “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels

  • Provides essential fats body can’t synthesize on its own

  • Lowers rate of cardiovascular disease and associated mortality

  • Lowers heart rate and improve heart rhythm

  • Decreased risk of clotting

  • Improves blood vessel function and delays build-up of plaque

If you feel that you could benefit from individual advice regarding your fat intake book in an appointment here.


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©2020 by Mary-Adelle - Dietitian and Nutritionist.

Brisbane, QLD, Australia.

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