Dietary fats: Know which types to choose

Find out what fats to limit and what fats to include in your heart-healthy diet.

There are three macronutrients the body needs for an energy source. These macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Certain fats such as trans fats and saturated fats may contribute to an increase in your LDL cholesterol, which could increase your risks for cardiovascular disease; those fats we should limit. On the other hand, there are potentially helpful dietary fat such as Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs).

The American Heart Association offers guidelines on how much fat to include in our diet:

Saturated fats: These are generally solid at room temperature and are mainly found in animal sources such as red meats, butter, poultry skin, and whole fat dairy products. It is recommended to consume less than seven percent of your total daily calories from saturated fats.

Trans fats: These fat can occur naturally in foods especially from animal sources, but mostly trans fats are made during food processing into synthetic trans fats. Commercial baked goods such as cakes, crackers, some fried foods, and some margarines. It is recommended to consume less than one percent of your total daily calories from trans fats.

MUFAs: These fats can be found in olives, natural peanut butter, almonds, avocados, and in some oils like olive, canola, sesame and peanut oil. Research shows that MUFAs may improve blood cholesterol levels and may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control.

PUFAs: These fats can be found in nuts and seeds, poultry, and vegetable oils such as corn, sunflower, safflower, soy and cottonseed oils. Research shows that adding PUFAs to your diet improves blood cholesterol levels and may help reduce the risk of type II diabetes. Omega 3-fatty acids are a type of PUFAs and can be found in fatty cold-water fish such as salmon and mackerel. Flax-seed and walnuts are another source of Omega 3-fatty acids.

While no specific amount is recommended for MUFAs and PUFAs consumptions, the guidelines recommend staying within your total fat allowance of 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Visit MyPlate for more information and helpful resources for planning healthy meals.

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