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By Julia Haimovich, Accredited Practicing Dietitian.

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In essence, a comprehensive understanding of the physiological role of fats and the psychological
impact of dietary myths is crucial. It’s time to debunk the myth and embrace the role of healthy fats
in fostering a well-rounded, nutritious diet.
The relationship between fats and weight gain has long been a subject of confusion and
misconception. While it’s commonly believed that consuming fats directly leads to weight gain, the
reality is far more nuanced, integrating both physiological and psychological aspects of nutrition.
Physiologically, fats play a critical role in the body’s functions. Not all fats are created equal. Healthy
fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in avocados, nuts, and olive oil, are
essential for various bodily processes. They aid in nutrient absorption and hormone regulation and
provide a concentrated source of energy. In fact, they’re integral for brain health and the absorption
of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. 1
Psychologically, the fear of weight gain from consuming fats often leads to restrictive diets. This can
inadvertently cause individuals to turn to processed, low-fat products that are laden with sugars and
additives to compensate for taste. These products, often marketed as ‘low-fat’ or ‘fat-free,’ may
contribute to weight gain due to increased sugar content and decreased satiety. 2
Understanding the truth about fats is crucial. The emphasis should be on the quality and quantity of
fats consumed. Moderate portions of healthy fats as part of a balanced diet can actually aid in
weight management by providing a feeling of fullness and satisfaction, reducing the likelihood of
overeating. 3
In fostering a healthy diet, fats are integral to overall well-being. The approach to fat intake hinges
on selecting appropriate types and quantities. Here’s a simple guideline to navigate this:

Prioritise Healthy Fats: Integrate sources such as avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, fatty fish, and
flaxseeds into your diet. These fats offer benefits for heart health, cognitive function, and holistic
Maintain a Saturated-Unsaturated Balance: Reduce intake of saturated fats from red meat, butter,
and full-fat dairy. Instead, favour monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, as they positively
impact cholesterol levels when consumed moderately.
Acknowledge Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3s, prevalent in fish and select plant sources like
flaxseeds and walnuts, significantly support heart health and may aid cognitive function.
Mindful Portions: While healthy fats are essential, their calorie density warrants caution. Pay
attention to portion sizes. A modest quantity suffices to derive their benefits without excessive
caloric intake.
Avoid Trans Fats: Steer clear of trans fats commonly found in processed and fried foods. They
elevate the risk of heart disease and should be limited as much as possible.
The general guideline suggests that fats should encompass around 20-35% of your total daily caloric
intake. Prioritising quality over sheer quantity is pivotal—opting for healthy sources and minimising
or eliminating unhealthy fats is fundamental for a well-rounded and health-conscious diet. 4


National Research Council (US) Committee on Diet and Health. Diet and Health: Implications
for Reducing Chronic Disease Risk. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1989. 7,
Fats and Other Lipids. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK218759/

  1. Liu AG, Ford NA, Hu FB, Zelman KM, Mozaffarian D, Kris-Etherton PM. A healthy approach to
    dietary fats: understanding the science and taking action to reduce consumer confusion.
    Nutr J. 2017 Aug 30;16(1):53. doi: 10.1186/s12937-017-0271-4. PMID: 28854932; PMCID:
  2. Samra RA. Fats and Satiety. In: Montmayeur JP, le Coutre J, editors. Fat Detection: Taste,
    Texture, and Post Ingestive Effects. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2010.
    Chapter 15. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53550/
  3. https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/nutrient-reference-values/nutrients/fats-total-fat-fatty-
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