All fats have a similar chemical structure—a chain of carbon molecules attached to hydrogen atoms. What makes one fat different from another is the length and position of the carbon chain and number of hydrogen atoms associated with carbon molecules.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are heart-healthy fats and more nutritious than saturated or trans fats. Healthy fats are liquid at room temperature, whereas bad fats are solid at room temperature.
Research has shown that eating foods that contain monounsaturated fat can improve your blood cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Food sources include
- Nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts)
- Nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter)
- Vegetable oils (olive oil, nut oil)
Polyunsaturated fat is known as an essential fat because the body can't make it on its own and must get it from plant-based foods and oils. Like monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat can reduce your risk of coronary disease by lowering blood cholesterol levels.
Omega-3 and omega-6 unsaturated fats are especially good for your heart, reducing the risk of heart disease and helping to regulate blood pressure levels. Food sources of polyunsaturated fats include:
What are bad fats to avoid?
Saturated and trans fats are bad for your health and can be found in most fast foods:
- Beef or pork fat
It is best to avoid trans fat and consume limited amounts of saturated fat.
Most saturated fats are animal fats. They're found in high-fat meat and dairy items. Saturated fat sources include:
- Fatty cuts of beef, pork, and mutton
- Dark poultry meat and skin
- High-fat dairy (whole milk, cheese, heavy cream, frozen yogurt)
- Tropical oils (coconut oil, palm oil)
Eating an excessive amount of saturated fat can increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL; bad) cholesterol levels.
Trans fat shows up in foods that contain some hydrogenated vegetable oils and is the most harmful fat for you. Trans fat food sources include:
- Fried foods
- Margarine (stick and tub)
- Vegetable shortening
- Baked goods
- Processed foods
Like saturated fat, trans fat can increase LDL cholesterol (bad) levels and suppress high-density lipoprotein (good) cholesterol levels.
Trans fat causes cellular inflammation and results in chronic diseases and accelerated cellular aging. It has been linked to hypertension and certain types of cancer.
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