Eating fats is essential for our health. However, most of us eat the wrong kind of fat. It is generally thought that no more than 20% of our total calories should come in the form of fat. However, in the USA, Britain and much of Western Europe the average is around 40%.

In countries, which have a low incidence of fat- related diseases, like Japan and Thailand, they consume only about 15% of their total calorie intake as fat.

There are three main forms of fat: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Almost all foods containing fat have some of all three forms. Meat contains mainly saturated and monounsaturated fat, while olive oil has mainly monounsaturated fat. Sunflower seed oil has mainly polyunsaturated fat.

It is generally agreed that no more than one-third of our total fat intake should come from saturated fat. Saturated fats are mainly found in red meat, dairy products and refined oils. Margarine, whilst although technically a polyunsaturated oil, is not healthy as it has been transformed through a process called hydrogenation. This is done to turn the oil into a hard fat. It is called a trans fat and it blocks the body's ability to to use healthy polyunsaturated oils. Any products, especially manufactured foods that contain hydrogenated fats should be avoided.

One third of our total fat should come from polyunsaturated oils, which provide the two essential fats: the linoleic acid family, known as Omega 6 and the alpha-linolenic acid family, known as Omega 3. Therefore, based on a 20% total fat intake, 7% can come from monounsaturated fat, 6% from saturated fat, 3% from Omega 3 and 4% from Omega 6 fat.

In the Omega 6 fat family, evening primrose oil and borage oil are the richest sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), transformed by the body from Linoleic acid, which are then transformed into prostaglandins. These are extremely active hormone-like substances. They help keep the blood thin, lower blood pressure, maintain water balance , decrease inflammation, improve nerve and immune function and help insulin to work. This family of fats comes from seeds and their oils. The best are hemp, pumpkin, sunflower, safflower, sesame, corn, walnut, soy beans and wheatgerm oil. An optimal intake would be one to two tablespoons of oil a day, to two to three tablespoons of ground seeds.

We are more likely to be deficient in Omega 3 fats because cooking and food processing easily damages them. The prostaglandins from Omega 3 oils are essential for proper brain function, which affects vision, learning ability, coordination and mood. The best seed oils for Omega 3 fatsare flax (linsee), hemp and pumpkin. You can also get high levels of Omega 3 oils through carnivorous fish such as mackerel, herring, tuna and salmon. This is why fish-eaters such as the Japanese have 3 times more Omega 3 fats than the average American. Vegans, who eat more seeds and nuts, have twice the Omega 3 level as the average American.

There are different ways of ensuring you get the necessary amounts of Omega 3 and 6 fats. Ideally, one should look for them in food form, like fish oils, seeds and vegetable oils. Ironically, the best source of Omega 3 and 6 fats in a single form is hemp seed oil, but because of current drug policies is not easily available. Combining seeds is another way. Sunflower and Sesame are good sources of Omega 3, pumpkin seeds have both forms and flax seed is richest in Omega 3 fats. These seeds can be ground in a coffee grinder and added to cereal and other food. These seeds should be kept in a sealed jar, away from light, heat and air, ideally in the fridge. Cold pressed oils are another way to get the necessary fat. Supplements of flax seed, evening primrose or borage oil are another alternative.

Olive oil, whilst containing little Omega 3 and 6 oils is generally cold-pressed and unrefined. This makes is better than refined vegetable oils like sunflower and canola oils you get in the supermarket. It is also better to fry with. If you fry food you should use either olive oil or butter, which are less prone to oxidation than cold-pressed vegetable oils. The latter oils should be kept sealed in the fridge, away from heat, light and air and only used cold in salad dressings.