‘I spoke to a customer a few days ago who had been told that his cholesterol was too high and that he needed to reduce the amount of saturated fat in his diet. He came into the pharmacy and said he was really confused about what this meant.’

We need to include some fat in our diet as it helps our body absorb vitamins to stay healthy. However, eating too much of two types of fats, “saturated” and “trans” fats can raise our cholesterol and increase the risk of heart disease. It can also lead to weight gain, as foods that are high in fat are also high in calories.

Saturated fats are found in meat and dairy products. To reduce your intake of saturated fat, reduce the amount of fatty meats such as sausages, streaky bacon, butter, cheese, pastries, cakes, biscuits and chocolate in your diet and replace with fruit and vegetables.

Trans fats (referred to sometimes as hydrogenated fat) are artificial and tend to be found in processed foods such as cakes and biscuits, included by some manufactures to give the product a longer shelf life. Most people don’t eat a lot of trans fats as many food manufacturers have removed this from their products.

As part of a healthy diet, we should try to replace saturated fat and trans fats with unsaturated fats. There is good evidence that doing this helps lower cholesterol.

Unsaturated fats are found mainly in oils from plants. They are found in olive oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, avocados, some nuts such as almonds and brazil nuts, in oily fish such as mackerel, kippers, herring, trout, salmon and sardines.

‘The customer asked me about pre-packaged food and if there was an easy way to judge if a food was better for him.’

The best way is to look for the nutrition label on food, which describes the quantity of total fat and saturated fat, per 100g or ml for liquids. Choose foods that are low in total fat and low in saturated fat. A good rule to stick to is around 5g per 100g of total fat. Men should not consume more than 30g of saturated fat per day and women 20g of saturated fat per day.

Some tips for reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet:

  • Try to avoid eating too many processed foods or ready meals
  • Choose lean cuts of meat or trim any visible fat away
  • When cooking, grill, poach or bake instead of frying
  • Use skimmed milk and reduced fat spreads and cheeses.

If you want help with reducing your cholesterol, speak to your local pharmacist and they will be able to help you.