May 06, 2022 12:00 AM

Author: University of Utah Health Communications


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Each of us has probably heard to limit our intake of high-fat foods to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and obesity. But does that mean we should avoid all fat?

Good Fats for Good Health

Fats play a vital role in your health. They can help your body absorb vitamins and minerals, provide energy, strengthen your immune system, and help you feel full longer after meals. However, the new USDA Dietary Guidelines that fat intake should be limited to approximately 10% of daily calories for adults 19 and older. For example, they recommend 27 grams of oils, or approximately 239 calories for a 2,000 calorie per day diet. 

The Bad Fats

Saturated fats are often solid at room temperature and are the ones that increase the risk of heart disease and high cholesterol. These include animal-based products like butter and cream, fatty cuts of meat and chicken, and processed meats like sausage and deli meats. They also include coconut oil, palm oil, and certain margarines. Eat these sparingly! 

The Really Bad Fats

Beware the trans fats! These are fats that are hydrogenated, or changed from a liquid to a solid, like shortening or solid margarine. Processed foods such as packaged baked goods and coffee creamer often include trans fats to extend their shelf life. The more trans fats in your diet, the greater the chance you will develop heart disease.

The Good Fats

Unsaturated fats can reduce inflammation, stabilize heart rhythms, and lower cholesterol when they replace saturated fats in the diet. These include omega-3 fatty acids found in avocados and seafood; olive, canola, safflower, and soybean oils; and nuts like cashews, brazil nuts, almonds, and pistachios.

Out with the Bad, In with the Good

You can make easy swaps to replace saturated fats with unsaturated. Eat less red meat and more fish. Cook with plant-based oils like canola and olive oil instead of butter or bacon grease. And instead of hitting the vending machine for a packaged snack, try a piece of fruit and one ounce of dry-roasted or raw nuts.

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