Written by Mari McClenney FSHN 451, Student of the Community Nutrition Class taught by Dr. Jinan Banna, University of Hawaii Manoa.

“How much fat do I need to be healthy and what type? Where can I find these fats in the diet?”

When we think of fat-containing foods that Hawaii has to offer, mouth watering delicacies such Spam musubis, kalua pork, and malasadas come to mind. The idea of consuming fats in our daily diet can seem contradictory because of the misconception about fats making us, well, fat. However, there are many healthy fats we could include into our diets that help regulate bodily functions.
Fat is mainly categorized as a saturated or an unsaturated fat. Saturated fats include meat products (yes, that means Spam), cheese, lard, butter, and cream. Eating a diet rich in saturated fats can increase the risk for obesity, high cholesterol, heart attack, and strokes if consumed in excess. Unsaturated fats are composed of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Foods that contain monounsaturated fats include olive oil, peanuts, avocados, and tree nuts. Monounsaturated fats can reduce risk of heart disease and control blood sugar levels. It is recommended that we consume about 15 – 20% of our daily calories from monounsaturated fats. Foods that contain polyunsaturated fats include corn oil, soybean oil, flax seeds, walnuts, and fish. Eating foods that contain polyunsaturated fats are good sources of omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids that can decrease the risk of type two diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. We should consume about 30% of our daily calories from polyunsaturated fats.
Eating foods that contain unsaturated fats is a tasty, yet beneficial way to include wholesome fats into our diets. Swapping for healthier fats can be quite simple: use olive oil instead of butter while cooking, have poke instead of fried fish, or try avocado/walnuts instead of croutons on top of a salad; The possibilities of using more unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats are endless!


  • Hodson L, Skeaff C, Chisolm W. The effect of replacing dietary saturated fat with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat on plasma lipids in free-living young adults. European Journal Of Clinical Nutrition [serial online]. October 2001;55(10):908. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 3, 2018.
  • Imamura F, Micha R, Mozaffarian D, et al. Effects of Saturated Fat, Polyunsaturated Fat, Monounsaturated Fat, and Carbohydrate on Glucose-Insulin Homeostasis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomised Controlled Feeding Trials. Plos Medicine [serial online]. July 19, 2016;13(7):1-18. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 3, 2018.

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