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Healthy and unhealthy fats

  • Since our bodies only need a certain amount of fat each day, any extra that is consumed is stored in fat tissue and contributes to weight gain. Fat also affects our hearts, but the effect depends on which kind of fat you are eating. However, some fatty acids are considered healthier compared to others.

Types of fats

  • Saturated fats such as butter, solid shortening, and lard.
  • Saturated fat is found in higher proportions in animal products and is usually solid at room temperature.
  • An exception is seafood, which is generally low in saturated fat.
  • The human body makes all the saturated fat that it needs, so it is not necessary to get saturated fat from food.
Saturated and unsaturated fatty acids
Saturated and unsaturated fatty acids

Unsaturated fats

Saturated fats

  • Saturated fats raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol level.
  • You should avoid or limit foods that are high in saturated fats.
  • Trans fatty acids are unhealthy fats that form when vegetable oil hardens in a process called hydrogenation.
  • These are found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, cookies, snack foods, and other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs).

Hydrogenated fats or trans fats

  • Hydrogenated fats, or "trans fats," are often used to keep some foods fresh for a long time.
  • Trans fats are also used for cooking in some restaurants.
  • To reduce your risk for heart disease, cut back on saturated fat and trans fat by replacing some foods high in saturated fat with unsaturated fat or oils.

Unsaturated fats

  • Mono-unsaturated fats, which include olive and canola oil
  • Polyunsaturated fats, which include safflower, sunflower, corn, and soy oil

Tips for choosing healthier fats

  • Choose leaner cuts of meat that do not have much visible fat.
  • Leaner cuts include round cuts and sirloin cuts.
  • Trim visible fat off meats before eating.
  • Sauté with olive oil or canola oil instead of butter.
  • Use olive oil in salad dressings and marinades.  Use canola oil when baking.
  • When re-heating soups or stews, skim the solid fats from the top before heating.
  • Sprinkle slivered nuts or sunflower seeds on salads instead of bacon bits.
  • Snack on a small handful of nuts rather than potato chips or processed crackers.
  • Try peanut butter or other nut-butter spreads (which do not contain trans fat) on celery, bananas, or low-fat crackers.
  • Add slices of avocado rather than cheese to your sandwich.
  • Once or twice a week prepare fish, such as salmon or mackerel, instead of meat.

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