Know which types to choose | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 28, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 28, 2009

Dietary Fats

Know which types to choose

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Most foods contain several different kinds of fats including saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans fats — and some kinds are better for your health while some are harmful. When choosing fats, pick unsaturated fat over saturated or trans fat. Here's how to know the difference.
Healthy fats
Unsaturated fats: Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered as healthy fats. These fats, if used in place of others, can lower your risk of heart disease by reducing the total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels in your blood. One type of polyunsaturated fat — omega-3 fatty acids may be especially beneficial to your heart.
Omega-3s appear to decrease the risk of coronary artery disease. They may also protect against irregular heartbeats and help lower blood pressure levels. Below are the best food sources of these healthy fats:
Monounsaturated fat include olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. Polyunsaturated fat are vegetable oils (such as safflower, corn, sunflower, soy and cottonseed oils), nuts and seeds.
Another kind of good fat is omega-3 fatty acid which is found in fatty, cold-water fish (such as salmon), flaxseeds, flax oil and walnuts.
Harmful fats
Saturated and trans fats (trans-fatty acids) are less healthy kinds of fats. They can increase your risk of heart disease by increasing your total and LDL (bad cholesterol). Dietary cholesterol is not technically a fat, but it is found in food derived from animal sources.
Intake of dietary cholesterol increases blood cholesterol levels, but not as much as saturated and trans fats do and not to the same degree in all people. Below are common food sources of harmful fats:
* Saturated fat: Animal products (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard and butter), and coconut, palm and other tropical oils.
* Trans fat: Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, commercial baked goods (such as crackers, cookies and cakes), fried foods (such as doughnuts and french fries), shortening and margarine.
* Dietary cholesterol: Animal products (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard and butter).
Daily limits for fat intake
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommend that fat make up no more than 35 percent of your daily calories.
This means that if you consume 1,800 calories a day; eat no more than 70 grams of fat daily. (To figure: Multiply 1,800 by 0.35 to get 630 calories, and divide that number by 9, the number of calories per gram of fat, to get 70 grams of total fat.)
Keep in mind, however, that this is an upper limit and that most of these fat calories should come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated sources. In addition, the USDA and HHS recommend these upper limits for saturated fat and dietary cholesterol for healthy adults: Saturated fat should be less than 10 percent of your total daily calories and dietary cholesterol less than 300 milligrams a day.

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