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Dossier: Healthy eating

How much fat per day is healthy?

Does fat make you fat? Which fatty acids are good for you? And how much fat should you eat per day? Dietician Esther Haller talks about quantities, diet trends and why fat athletic people are healthier than thin people who get no exercise.

Text: Julie Freudiger; photo: Unsplash

Ms Haller, dietary recommendations for fats can be confusing. What do I need to know about fats for my daily diet?

You should opt for high quality, plant-based fats. Fat is very high in energy, so you should eat it in moderation. You can use two to three tablespoons for cold and warm meals.

What oils do you recommend?

Ideally, half the oil you use should be rapeseed oil. It’s rich in healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids, including omega-3. Walnut, linseed and pumpkin seed oil also contain omega-3 fatty acids. However, these oils shouldn’t be heated strongly. For cooking and frying, you should use thermally stable HOLL rapeseed oil or HOLL sunflower oil. Unsalted nuts, seeds and kernels also contain healthy fats, so I recommend you eat two to three tablespoons of these a day.

And what about animal fats?

Cream and butter should be limited to about one tablespoon per day. And avoid convenience foods and fried foods. These contain unhealthy trans fatty acids. Please note that all these quantities apply to a normal metabolism, not for people who want to lose weight or people who need more calories, such as athletes. Don’t worry if you exceed the recommended guidelines now and again. What’s important is that you stick to the recommendations over the course of the year.

“Nutrition is very individual. Not every trend or diet is suitable for everyone.”

How should I store oils so they don’t go off?

Buy oils in the smallest possible quantities and store them in a cool, dark place. Linseed oil should be kept in the fridge. Even though it’s handy, don’t store oils next to the hob or oven. It’s too hot here, and oils can quickly go off.

Current diet trends claim that it's healthy to eat a lot of fat, while carbohydrates are unhealthy. Is this true?

Nutrition is very individual. A person’s diet depends on how active they are, their personal preferences and their lifestyle. For example, carbohydrates are very important for people who do a lot of sport, whereas anyone wanting to lose weight should reduce their carbohydrate intake and slightly increase the amount of fat they eat. Another person may be better advised to eat less fat and opt for wholegrain carbohydrates. But what studies confirm time and again is that a mediterranean diet is ideal in the long term. It includes fresh products, moderate amounts of meat and fish, healthy plant-based oils and a lot of fruit and vegetables.

“Healthy living involves eating a balanced diet and getting sufficient exercise. Both aspects are very important.”

Is it healthier to be slightly overweight and do sport or slim and do no sport?

It’s much better to carry a bit more weight if you’re getting enough exercise. Just because a person is slim, it doesn’t mean they’re eating a healthy, balanced diet. Eating healthily is just as important as getting enough exericse. Sport strengthens your musculoskeletal system, cardiovascular system and immune system. It helps maintain a healthy weight and is effective in the fight against diabetes and high cholesterol. Sport is also important for your mental well-being, because it helps you switch off. Regular exercise also improves your concentration and helps you sleep better.

Do you recommend low-fat and diet products?

That depends on a person’s goals. If you want to lose weight, I recommend opting for naturally low-fat products. With dairy products, you should eat cottage cheese, semi-skimmed milk, or natural yoghurt instead of fruit yoghurt (which contains seven sugar cubes per tub). With meat products, you should choose Bündnerfleisch (air-dried meat produced in Graubünden, Switzerland) and low-fat ham instead of salami or mortadella. Diet products are not bad per se. As with everything, it depends on the quantities you eat. However, some people may suffer from flatulence as a result of the sweeteners used in these products.