Fats, Oils and Spreads

This leaflet discusses different fats in the diet.



The Role of Fat

Fat has an important role in the body, fulfilling a wide range of functions which include:

  • Supplying energy for the body
  • Providing essential fatty acids the body can’t make
  • Required in the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K)
  • Insulating the body, providing a protective layer around vital organ

Although our bodies need small amounts of fat, it is important that we do not each too much. Your risk of heart disease is increased when you have diabetes, so it is important to follow an eating plan which can help to keep your heart healthy.

Eating too much fat can lead you to put on weight, as when compared to other nutrients, fats and oils are very high in calories:

  • 1 tablespoon of oil (15g fat) = 135 calories

Being overweight can contribute to increased blood pressure, increased cholesterol and also impact on how well your diabetes is controlled. 

Recommended Amounts

The maximum amount of fat that you should be eating in a day outlined in the table below.

Table 1: Recommended Daily Fat Intake




Total Fat / Day



Saturated Fat / Day




Tips to Reduce Fat Content 

  • Reduce the use of butter, ghee, lard or coconut oils and spreads
  • Measure out oils onto teaspoon rather than pouring from bottle
  • Choose lower fat cooking methods such as grilling, poaching or steaming
  • Use spray oils

Types of Fats

There are several different types of fat and choosing the right type is important for the health of our heart.

The table below outlines the different types of fat, their potential health implications and sources.

Table 2: Types of Fat


Food Source

Health Implication

Saturated Fat

Butter, lard, ghee, palm oil, dripping, coconut oil, hard cheese, cream, fatty meat.

Can increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood, especially harmful LDL cholesterol

Trans Fat

Biscuits, cakes, pastries, deep fried foods.

Most trans fats are industrially produced and have similar impact as saturated fats

Monounsaturated Fat

Olive and rapeseed oils, and spreads.

Can assist in maintaining HDL cholesterol levels, with positive health benefits

Polyunsaturated Fat

Soya, sunflower and corn oil and spreads, nuts, seeds, oily fish.

Provide essential fatty acids that body can’t produce. Can lower triglyceride levels, with positive health benefits

All types of fat are high in calories. A gram of fat provides 9 calories, where as carbohydrate and protein contain 4 calories and alcohol contains 7 calories.

Replacing saturated and trans fats with moderate amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated can be beneficial. It is a common misconception that these fats are lower in calories. All fats are high in calories, so whichever fat you choose to use, make sure that you limit the amount.

Food Labels 

Food labels can also help you cut down on total and saturated fats.

Total Fat

  • High in fat – more than 17.5g of fat per 100g.
  • Low in fat – 3g of fat or less per 100g or 1.5g of fat per 100mls.
  • Fat free – 0.5g of fat or less per 100g or 100mls.

Saturated Fat

  • High in saturated fat – more than 5g of saturates per 100g.
  • Low in saturated fat – 1.5g of saturates or less per 100g or 0.75g per 100mls.
  • Sat free – 0.1g of saturates per 100g or 100mls.

Label Claims

For a product to be labelled ‘lower fat’, ‘reduced fat’, ‘lite’ or ‘light’, it has to contain at least 30% fat than a similar product. A lower fat cheddar has 30 % less fat than the standard equivalent, but is still high in fat. Low fat foods can also be higher in sugar, so many not always be lower in calories. To be sure of the fat and calorie content of the food, it is important to always check the label.

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