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Finland Eats Too Much Saturated Fat, Nutritionists Say

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People in Finland still eat far too much saturated fat according to the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s (THL) health recommendations. Most of the saturated fat in Finnish diets comes from meat as well as from milk and dairy products.

According to the health recommendations, saturated fat should account for 10 percent of total daily caloric intake, said Mikael Fogelholm, a nutrition professor at the University of Helsinki.

“In 2017, THL’s FinRavinto study found that three percent of men and six percent of women met this recommendation. I don’t think there has been a very significant change,” Fogelholm said.

The intake of unsaturated fats should be twice as high as that of saturated fats. According to Fogelholm, very few Finns do, even though the right ratio of saturated to unsaturated fats might be even more important for health than the amount of saturated fat alone.

Fogelholm believes it is unrealistic to expect the average intake of saturated fats in Finland to fall to the recommended level in the near future, as it was as high as 15 percent in 2017. But it would still be possible to get closer to 10 percent without dramatic dietary changes.

According to Fogelholm, the biggest source of saturated fat in meat is beef.

“The best change would be to replace beef and pork with fish, shellfish or plant-based protein sources. Poultry is also a change for the better, but I would see it as a good transition towards more fish and vegetable-rich main meals,” Fogelholm said.

Fogelholm said that Finnish interest in plant protein products is still limited.

Meat and dairy products low-fat or fat-free

In cooking and on bread, oils and vegetable oil-based margarines — which are good sources of unsaturated fat — should be favoured over butter.

“In this food group, butter and butter-based spreads are the main sources of saturated fat,” said Sari Niinistö, Head of Research at THL.

According to Niinistö, meat and dairy products should be bought as low-fat or fat-free as possible, for example, ordinary cream should be replaced by oat cream.

According to THL’s FinRavinto studies, people’s intake of saturated fats declined for decades until 2007, when it started to rise. The biggest increase was seen between 2007 and 2012.

“The use of butter and butter-based fat mixtures became more common around this time. At the same time as fat intake has increased, carbohydrate intake has decreased,” Niinistö noted.

Source: Yle

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