Fats, omegas and cholesterol
Fats - We all need some fat in our diet but it is important to reduce saturated fat intake
- Fats help with the absorption of some vitamins, provide a source of energy, maintain cell membranes and regulate cholesterol.
- Consuming too much fat can lead to weight gain.
- There are 3 main types of fats: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
- Saturated fats (found in butter, cheese, palm oil and coconut products) can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease so should be consumed in moderation.
- Vegetarian sources of healthier, unsaturated fats are fruit, seeds, nuts, vegetables, olive oil and sunflower oil.
Omegas - omega 3 and omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential nutrients for health
- Vegetarians do not eat fish but oily fish is usually recommended as a good source of omega 3.
- Vegetarian sources of omega 3 are flaxseed, hempseed, rapeseed and walnuts.
- Vegetarian sources of omega 6 are nuts, seeds, maize and soya beans. Both omega 3 and 6 are found in green leafy vegetables, milk and eggs.
- An adequate intake of both may prevent and control a number of inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis, but it is important to balance their intakes appropriately.
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Cholesterol - is essential to life, helping build cell membranes, bile acids and hormones
- Foods high in saturated fats such as cakes and biscuits, pastries, cream, cheese and palm oil, increase cholesterol levels.
- Processed foods rich in trans fats, such as margarine, have a similar effect on cholesterol levels as saturated fats.
- Raised cholesterol levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease such as stroke and heart disease.
- Unsaturated fats and high fibre foods, both found in a balanced vegetarian diet, can help lower cholesterol levels.
Find out more
You can find out more about how fats, omegas and cholesterol work in our bodies by reading the in-depth fact sheet.