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Know Your Fats


SOURCE: Department of Health and Human Services

Fats and oils are part of a healthy diet and play many important roles in the body. Fat provides energy and is a carrier of essential nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, K, and carotenoids. But, fat can impact the health of your heart and arteries in a positive or negative way, depending on the types of fat you eat.

Eat less saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Eating too much saturated fat, the type of fat that is solid at room temperature, may increase risk of heart disease. Similarly, eating too much trans fat, which is made when liquid vegetable oil is processed to become solid, also may increase risk of heart disease. And, eating too much cholesterol, a fatty substance
found only in animal-based products, may clog arteries. It is important to eat less than 10% of your calories from saturated fat.

For example, if you aim to eat 2,000 calories a day, your daily allowance of saturated fat would be less than 200 calories or 20 grams—which equals 100 percent Daily Value (% DV) for saturated fat. The table above shows the saturated fat limits for people with various calorie needs. Furthermore, you should keep trans fat as low as possible and eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day.

Be wise about fat. Choose fats found in fish, nuts,and vegetable oils most often.

Most of the fat in your diet should come from food sources of polyunsaturated and monounstatured fats. Experts recommend getting between 20% and 35% of calories from total fat, with most fats coming from fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. These foods can contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats—they should replace the saturated and trans fat sources you choose to cut back on.

Use the label—what to look for and how it adds up.

The Nutrition Facts label can help you choose fats wisely. Look at the serving size and determine how many servings you are actually eating. If you eat two servings, you will be consuming double the calories and nutrients, such as fat. You will also get double the % DV of other nutrients. The % DV represents one serving of the food item.

Use the % DV on the Nutrition Facts label to identify which nutrients (total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol) are high or low; 5% DV or less is low, and 20% DV or more is high. There
is no % DV for trans fat, but you should aim to keep trans fat intake as low as possible.

Unhealthy fats such as saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol are found in many foods. So, look for choices that are lean, low-fat, or fat-free when selecting and preparing meat, poultry, dry beans, and milk products. Also, trim excess fat from meat and poultry and remove the skin from poultry to reduce saturated fat. Additionally, foods may be processed or made with tropical oils (e.g., palm oil, palm fruit oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil, etc.) that increase the amount of saturated fat in the food (e.g., cakes, cookies, pies, crackers, candy, creamers, etc.).

Trans fat is mostly found in food products made with shortening—liquid oil that is processed to become hard. Most of the trans fat Americans eat come from cakes, cookies, crackers,
pies, fried potatoes, household shortening, and hard margarine. Limiting consumption of many processed foods is a good way to reduce trans fat.

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