Fats are an essential nutrient and your body needs fat to work properly. But, too much fat can increase your blood cholesterol level and your risk of heart disease.
If you have heart disease or several risk factors for heart disease, you need to reduce your saturated fat to less than 7 percent of your total calories.
Listed below are the types of fat found in food.
Saturated fats are found in animal products such as butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream and fatty meats.
They are also found in some vegetable products (coconut, palm and palm kernel oil). Saturated fats and trans fatty acids raise blood cholesterol more than anything else in your diet.
Trans fatty acids (trans fats) result from a chemical process known as hydrogenation. Trans fats can raise LDL cholesterol levels and add to heart disease.
Shortening, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and hydrogenated vegetable oils are examples of trans fats. Trans fats are often used in cooking in many restaurants and fast food chains.
(Note: Trans fats also occur naturally in some foods such as meat and milk.)
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature (such as butter or stick margarine). Trans fats make these solid.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature (such as oils).
Read ingredient labels and buy items that have a recommended fat, such as canola or soybean oil.
Avoid foods that have hydrogenated vegetable oil, partially hydro-genated oil or shortening. Choose foods that have as close to zero grams trans fat as possible.
Monounsaturated fats include olive, peanut and canola oils. Avocados and most nuts are also high in monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats, in appropriate amounts, may reduce total cholesterol and LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol, the bad cholesterol.
Because butter is rich in both saturated fat and cholesterol, it could raise your cholesterol level.
Most margarine is made from vegetable fat and provides no dietary cholesterol. Select margarines that do not contain trans fats.
Polyunsaturated fats include corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed, olive and sesame seed oils.
Polyunsaturated fats can help reduce blood cholesterol, if you use them in place of saturated fats.
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats. They include flaxseed, flaxseed oil, soybean, soybean oil, canola oil, walnuts and fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout). Omega-3 fatty acids help your heart by lowering your risk of arrhythmias, your triglyceride levels and your blood pressure.
How much fat and saturated fat should you eat?
The chart below shows the recommended amount of total fat and saturated fat at various calorie levels.