Fat has developed a bad reputation throughout the years. But did you know that some dietary fats are key to good health? Fat comes in different forms - some good and some bad. You simply need to know which ones to avoid or limit, and which ones to enjoy. Here's some information to help you separate the good from the bad when it comes to fat.
Good fats can help promote healthy blood cholesterol levels and keep your body functioning properly. Good types of dietary fats include:
These types of fat help to lower "bad" cholesterol (LDL) and raise "good" cholesterol (HDL). You can find monounsaturated fats in olive and canola oil, peanut butter, olives, avocados, nuts and seeds. You can eat one ounce (small handful) of any kind of nuts each day, five times per week. This can help lower your LDL by up to six percent.
Polyunsaturated fats are in vegetable oils and soft tub margarines that are made from corn, sunflower, safflower, soybean and cottonseed oil. They can also be found in reduced-fat versions of mayonnaise, salad dressing, as well as pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
Omega-3 fats are widely recognized for their heart-health benefits and lowering risk of heart disease. They work by lowering LDL cholesterol and another bad type of blood fat, triglycerides. They are also thought to lower risk of certain cancers and other diseases and support cognitive function and memory. Omega-3s are found in tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines. They are also found in walnuts, flaxseed, soy nuts and canola oil.
There are two types of fat that should be eaten sparingly: saturated fat and trans fat. Both can raise cholesterol levels, clog arteries and increase the risk for heart disease.
Saturated fats can raise LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. These fats are usually solid at room temperature. For example, the fat remaining in the skillet after you fry bacon will become solid after it sits for a period of time. Other sources of saturated fat include butter or the marbled fat in certain cuts of meat.
Trans fats are the worst type of dietary fat and should be carefully limited, if not completely avoided. Trans fats provide doubly negative health benefits since they raise your LDL cholesterol AND lower your HDL cholesterol.
While a certain amount is essential for our health, fats should be eaten in limited amounts and consist of healthy, unsaturated fats like fish, nuts and vegetable oils. Learn more about dietary fats, including how to choose the right kinds from the Mayo Clinic. We've also included some tips for choosing the right kind of fats.