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Fats have important functions in the body

Many people think fat makes you fat. They're wrong: fats perform important tasks in the body. They are needed, for example, to build cells and produce hormones. Plus, vitamins A, D, E and K can only be absorbed with the aid of fats. There are also essential fatty acids which the body cannot produce itself and which have to be obtained from the diet. Health-wise, therefore, fats and oils play an important role in nutrition.

Fats in foods: quality is key

According to experts, 20 to 35 per cent of our daily energy intake should come from fats. Fat supplies around 9 kilocalories per gram – so for an energy requirement of 2000 kilocalories per day, you need around 45 to 80 grams of fat.
From a health perspective, it is not so much the quantity as the type of fats and oils that is key. Unsaturated fatty acids – particularly polyunsaturated – are essential for our bodies. They are preferable to saturated fatty acids.
Fats are divided into three groups:
Type of fat
Contained in, e.g.:
Saturated fatty acids: Recommendation: max. 1/3 of fat intake
high-fat dairy products, meat and sausage products, coconut oil, palm oil
Monounsaturated fatty acids: Recommendation: min. 1/3 of fat intake
olive oil, hazelnuts, almonds, avocado
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids) Recommendation: min. 1/3 of fat intake
rapeseed oil, oily fish, walnuts, linseed, pine nuts
List of different fatty acids and the foods that contain them
Salmon on a plate with green asparagus and cherry tomatoes
The best way to make sure you're getting enough fats and oils:
  • use 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil each day for pan-frying, cooking or in cold dishes. Rapeseed oil has the optimum composition, so should make up at least half of the vegetable oil you use.
  • Eat one handful (20-30 grams) of unsalted nuts every day. These are rich in unsaturated fatty acids and supply our body with other valuable substances.
  • Eat oily fish once a week, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines or tuna. These types of fish are rich in special Omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid). The body relies on these, but can only make very small quantities of them itself.

Different oils and their properties

Cold-pressed oils are distinguished by the fact that they are not heated during manufacture. Because of this, it’s a shame to expose these oils to high temperatures when cooking, as the majority of their wonderful aromas dissipate when heated. Furthermore, cold-pressed oils contain valuable plant nutrients, some of which are destroyed by heat.
Oils that are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as linseed oil, soya oil, thistle oil, wheatgerm oil, corn oil or conventional sunflower oil should not be heated either. This is because unsaturated fatty acids are sensitive to heat. Instead, for browning and deep-frying use oils that are high in monounsaturated fatty acids. Some examples of these are *HOLL rapeseed oil or **HO sunflower oil. These are oils from special varieties of sunflower and rapeseed. Vegetable frying oils contain a high percentage of oleic acid, which tolerates heat well. Olive oil also contains a high percentage of oleic acid and is suitable for sautéing.

Using oils and fats in the kitchen

For the good of your health, use the right oil for the right purpose in the kitchen. Not all oils should be used for pan-frying. An oil's suitability in the kitchen is dictated by the fatty acids it contains, and the manufacturing process (e.g. cold-pressed or refined).
Here is an overview for use in the kitchen:
  • Cold dishes: Cold-pressed rapeseed and olive oil, walnut oil, wheatgerm oil, soya oil, linseed oil, sesame oil, pumpkin seed oil.
  • Sautéing: Refined rapeseed or olive oil, *HOLL rapeseed oil, **HO sunflower oil
  • Deep-frying and extended pan-frying: *HOLL rapeseed oil, **HO sunflower oil
  • Baking: Butter, margarine, *HOLL rapeseed oil, **HO sunflower oil
Coconut oil should not be routinely used in the kitchen. It contains up to 90 per cent saturated fatty acids so, whilst suitable for heating in principle, for health reasons it is better to use vegetable oils which contain few saturated fatty acids.
* HOLL = High Oleic Low Linolenic
** HO = High Oleic