Thursday, February 12, 2009

The skinny on fats

Two fats — saturated and trans — give all fats a bad name. Saturated fat is the main dietary cause of high cholesterol. This can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Saturated fat is found in meat, poultry, and full-fat or reduced-fat dairy products. Some plant-based foods — such as coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconuts and cocoa butter — also are high in this fat. Trans fat usually comes from oils that have undergone partial hydrogenation, a chemical process that changes liquid oils to a more solid form. But, trans fat boosts total cholesterol even higher than saturated fat does. Trans fat also contributes to an unhealthy balance between good cholesterol, HDL, and bad cholesterol, LDL. This may increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. High trans fat foods may include doughnuts, French fries, cookies, crackers, cakes, biscuits, stick margarines and shortenings. Check the food label for trans fat content. Some products may contain partially or fully hydrogenated fat but list zero trans fat. That's because: 1. A product can claim to be free of trans fat as long as it doesn't contain more than one-half gram of trans fat per serving. 2. There's no trans fat in fully hydrogenated fat. It has turned into a saturated fat. Choose fats that are better for you It's true: Some fats actually are OK. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat may help lower cholesterol when used in moderation and in place of other fats. These fats are found in olive, canola, peanut, sesame and corn oils. Other sources include: Fish, such as salmon, herring, trout and mackerel Avocados Peanut butter Many nuts and seeds For your health, limit your overall fat intake. Also: 1. Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. 2. Replace some of the meat you eat with beans or legumes. 3. Eat fish at least twice a week, especially fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout. 4. Stick with vegetable oils. Avoid tropical oils, lard and shortening. 5. Use trans-fat-free soft margarine instead of butter. 6. Avoid trans fats and limit fried foods. By Michael W. Rosen, M.D. - UnitedHealthCare

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