Know Your Fats

There are only four kinds of fats in our diet -- monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated and trans.

Mono- and polyunsaturated fats. These are considered "good" fats. They do not clog arteries and, in moderation, can contribute to a healthy diet. They include olive, canola, peanut and walnut oils.

Saturated fat. This is mainly animal fat, the kind found in beef, butter, lard, the skin of chicken, whole milk, whipped cream, egg yolks and other products that come from animals. Coconut and palm oils are also saturated. Too much raises the level of artery-clogging cholesterol.

Trans fat (trans-fatty acids). These are formed when oil is hydrogenated. Some naturally occurring trans fats can be found in small amounts in animal products. Like saturated fat, trans fat raises the level of harmful blood cholesterol (LDL) as well as the ratio of LDL to the more beneficial HDL cholesterol. Some researchers believe it changes how cells process insulin -- which can lead to diabetes -- and have linked it to cancer. Trans fat is found in many processed, convenience and fast foods -- french fries, fried chicken, doughnuts, pastries, cookies, crackers and some breakfast cereals.

Partially hydrogenated oil. This manufacturing process creates trans fat. A hydrogen atom is mixed with non-saturated liquid oil from plants like corn or soy to make fat such as shortening and margarine that stay solid at room temperature.

Fractionated oil. This type of oil is created by a manufacturing process that uses high temperatures or solvents to separate hydrogenated oil into liquid and solid parts. When listed on food labels, it indicates the presence of trans fat.



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