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What is Saturated Fat? How Much Should I Have?

Sep 15, 2009

What is saturated fat? It's the main cause of high cholesterol and heart disease. You probably know that you should avoid saturated fats, but you might not know what foods contain saturated fats or how much saturated fat is safe to include in your diet.

Know Your Fats

There are four primary kinds of fats in the average diet:

  1. Saturated fats
  2. Trans fatty acids
  3. Monounsaturated fats
  4. Polyunsaturated fats

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are the so called "good" fats. These fats can help lower total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, and they can even help you lose weight

Saturated fats are found in animal products, including meat and whole milk dairy products, as well as certain plant oils like palm, palm kernel and coconut oils. Trans fats are found in the artificially created "hydrogenated" oils used in fast foods and found in solid oils, like vegetable shortening and stick margarine.

Fats And Your Diet

Many people assume that dietary fats are always bad, especially when they're trying to lose weight. But the truth is, adequate nutrition requires some amount of fat intake. Fats help with nutrient absorption and help keep energy levels healthy. It's only when you have too much fat in your diet that it becomes a problem.

Your daily diet should include no more than 25 to 35 percent fats. Your daily calorie intake should include no more than 7 percent saturated fats. Your diet should contain less than 1 percent trans fatty acids.

Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and found in most vegetable oils, including safflower, sesame, soy, corn, olive and peanut oils. Avocados also contain monounsaturated fats.

When used in place of saturated fats, unsaturated fats can lower your total blood cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing your levels of "good" HDL cholesterol. Unsaturated fats can even help you lose weight by raising your energy levels. The American Heart Association believes that unsaturated fats can lower your risk of heart disease by removing arterial plaque and preventing the build up of arterial plaque.

Keeping Saturated Fats Out of Your Diet

If you're trying to lose weight, it's a good idea to keep saturated fats out of your diet. You should limit your consumption of animal products to lean meat, eggs, fish, skinless poultry and skim or low fat dairy products. Use oils and margarines made with unsaturated fats, in limited amounts.

Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Legumes, such a beans, can add protein and fiber to your diet. Eat grain products, especially those made with whole grains, as these are a good source of unsaturated fats and protein. The American Heart Association recommends eating a serving of fatty fish, such as salmon or sardines, twice a week.

Choose liquid oils and tub margarines rather than stick margarines and butter. Remember, saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature while unsaturated fats are not. Avoid fast foods and processed foods, as these are often very high in trans fatty acids.

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