Kidney Failure​

Fats – Good or Bad?

Research shows that not all fats are created equally. There are some fats that are good for you and some that are not. Find out how to swap the harmful fats in your diet for healthier fats.

Dietary fats come from both plants and animals. It is not advisable to go on a fat-free diet as it is an essential nutrient. It cushions delicate internal organs, absorbs fat-soluble vitamins, and insulates the body to keep one warm.

Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in your body. They are made in the body from excessive intake of carbohydrate (e.g. refined sugary drinks and snacks), fat and alcohol. A high level of triglyceride may increase the risk of heart disease.

Cholesterol is not a type of fat. It is a waxy substance that is naturally produced in our body and can also be obtained through diet.

There are two types of cholesterols:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is commonly regarded to be the bad type cholesterol because it can build up slowly in the inner wall of the arteries. This will narrow and harden the arteries and allow lesser blood to flow through in the arteries. Therefore, high intake of LDL cholesterol increases the risk of cardiovascular heart disease and kidney disease
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) HDL cholesterol is commonly regarded to be the good cholesterol because it removes excess cholesterol from arteries and help to prevent cholesterol build up in the blood vessels.

    Thus, it protects you against cardiovascular heart disease

 Know your Fats

Mono- and poly-unsaturated fats

  • Lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Beneficial to heart health in a moderate amount

Examples of mono-unsaturated fat include:

  • Avocados
  • Almonds, cashews and peanuts
  • Cooking oils made from plants or seeds like canola, olive, peanut, soybean, and sunflower oils

Examples of poly-unsaturated fat include :

  • Fish
  • Flaxseed and chia seed
  • Soybean, sunflower, safflower, and canola oil
  • Pine nuts, walnuts and brazil nuts

Saturated fats

  • Raises LDL cholesterol
  • Increases risk of cardiovascular disease

  • Skin and fat of poultry
  • Canned or processed meats (sausage/salami/luncheon meat/burger patty)
  • Full cream milk and dairy products
  • Coconut milk/oil and coconut products
  • Butter, palm oil, palm kernel oil, cocoa butter, ghee

Trans fats

  • Raises LDL cholesterol
  • Increases risk of cardiovascular disease

  • Potato crisps
  • Pastries, cookies and cakes
  • Solid margarine and shortenings
  • Deep fried foods

Know your lipid profile in blood test:

Lipid Profile Desirable level
Total cholesterol: mmol/L less than 5.2mmol/L or 200mg/dl
Triglycerides: mmol/L less than 1.7mmol/L or 150mg/dl
LDL (Bad) cholesterol: mmol/L less than 3.2mmol/L or 130mg/dl
HDL (Good) cholesterol: mmol/L more than 1.2mmol/L or 40mg/dl

Note: You are advised to cut down on food that are high in saturated and trans fat, and cholesterol if you have high LDL and triglyceride levels.

Tips to manage your cholesterol level


  • Select lean cuts of meats
  • Trim all visible fats and remove the skin of poultry and meat
  • Have 2 to 3 servings of fatty fish every week (salmon, sardine, tuna, mackerel)
  • Use less oil in cooking. Avoid re-using oils more than twice
  • Adopt healthier low fat cooking methods (e.g. boiling, steaming, baking)
  • Use soft margarine instead of butter and use it sparingly
  • Aiming 2 serves of fruit and 2 serves of vegetable daily

Eat out

  • Replace fried noodles with soup noodles (avoid finish all the soup)
  • Limit deep fried food to no more than twice a week
  • Ask for less oil and less gravy
  • Eat less high-fat bakery products (e.g. pastries, cookies and cakes)
  • Read the ingredient list and avoid products containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats/oils/shortening
  • Read Nutrition Information Panel and choose products with lower content of total fats, saturated fat and trans fat
  • Choose products with the Healthier Choice Symbol


  • Do physical activity for at least 2.5 hours a week
  • Maintain body weight within healthy weight range (Ideal BMI: 18.5 to 22.9 kg/m2 )
  • Do not smoke
  • Limit alcoholic drinks (Male: 2 standard drink; Female: 1 standard drink)


  • Remember to take medication as prescribed

*The above information and recommendations are general guidelines, and should not be viewed as specific advice for any individual. Please consult your physician or other health care advisors for personal health decisions.

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The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) strives to be an advocate and integrator for kidney health and holistic care for the community by the community. While supporting kidney failure patients with quality dialysis treatment and integrated care, its greater mission lies in preventing or delaying kidney failure through kidney health education with deeper integration into the community and strategic collaborative partnerships.
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