The Skinny on Fats

Even though all four fats—monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, or trans fats—have nine calories to every gram, they are not equal. Certain fats help lower cholesterol and certain fats make cholesterol worse.

“Dietary fats are essential to give your body energy and to support cell growth,” according to the American Heart Association. They also help your body in other important ways: They safeguard your organs, provide energy, produce hormones, delay hunger, absorb nutrients, and help keep your body warm. 

That means you can’t do without fats, but you can start making sure you get the right fats in your diet by learning which fats lower cholesterol and which ones raise it. To learn the skinny on fats, read on.

Types of Oils and Their Characteristics

Fat

Sources

Characteristics

What it Does

Monounsaturated
  • Avocados
  • Canola, olive, and peanut oils
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
This is a plant
derivative. It is
liquid at room
temperature.
Lowers LDL “bad”
cholesterol when substituted for other fats.
Polyunsaturated
  • Corn, safflower, sesame, soybean, and sunflower  oils
  • Fish: Salmon, tuna, and mackerel
  • Soybeans
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Most nuts
This is a plant and fish derivative. It is liquid at room temperature. Lowers LDL “bad” cholesterol when substituted for other fats.
Saturated
  • Coconut and palm oils
  • Dairy: Butter, cheese, whole milk, and yogurt
  • Meats: Bacon, beef, and lamb
  • Potato chips
This is mostly
derived from
animals. It is
solid at room
temperature.
Raises LDL “bad” cholesterol and
increases risk for cardiovascular diseases.
Trans Any food labeled trans fat or foods with partially hydrogenated oils. These solid fats are produced when liquid oils are processed. Trans fats are also called partially hydrogenated oils. Raises LDL “bad” cholesterol and lowers HDL “good” cholesterol. These fats also increase
risks for cardiovascular diseases.

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