Fat is an important nutrient that keeps your body functioning properly. However, not all fats are the same. It is important to understand which fats you should limit and which fats you can eat in moderation.
Unsaturated fats found in many vegetable oils do not raise blood cholesterol. They can be part of a healthy diet—as long as you don’t eat too much since fats are still high in calories. Unsaturated fats are found in olive, canola, safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oils as well as in fish and nuts.
Saturated fats raise “bad” cholesterol levels in your blood. They are a major risk for heart disease, so it is best to avoid foods with too much saturated fat. These fats are found in animal products such as butter, cheese, whole milk, and fatty meats and also in coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils. Cakes, cookies, quick breads, doughnuts, and chips may also contain saturated fats.
Trans fats also raise “bad” cholesterol levels in your blood and increase the risk of heart disease. There is no safe amount of trans fat. The best approach is to eat foods with as little trans fat as possible. Trans fat is often found in baked goods, snack foods, vegetable shortening, hard margarine, fried foods, and many processed foods.
4 Tips on Choosing Fats
- Look for words such as “shortening,” “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” or “hydrogenated vegetable oil” in the ingredients. These words are clues that the food contains trans fat.
- Look at the amounts of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol on nutrition labels. Remember, 5 percent of the daily value (%DV) or less is low, and 20 percent or more is high.
- Use olive, canola, soybean, corn, and sunflower oils.
- Choose soft margarines (liquid, tub, or spray) over solid shortenings, hard margarines, and animal fats, including butter.
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