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- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol: Out with the Bad, In with the Good
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Dietary Fat
- Cleveland Clinic: Types of Fats
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Know Your Fats
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
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Not all fat is bad for you, but your fat intake definitely needs to be monitored. Fats consumed should come mostly from healthier fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. However, even though monounsaturated fats are considered healthier, there are health concerns if too much is consumed. To reduce the risk of disease, all types of fat need to be eaten in moderation.
Types of Fat
Fats are either saturated or unsaturated. Saturated fats, which are found in meat, seafood, poultry with skin, whole-milk dairy products, coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil, are known to raise LDL levels or the bad kind of cholesterol. Trans fats which are found in hydrogenated foods also increase cholesterol levels. Both trans fats and saturated fats need to be eliminated or eaten in very small amounts.The American Heart Association recommends that saturated fats never equal more than 25 percent of your total calorie intake, and trans fats, if not eliminated, should never be more than 1 percent of your daily calorie intake 2. Unsaturated fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated are found in canola, peanut, and olive oils, avocados, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. Unsaturated fats can improve cholesterol levels and provide a protective effect against heart disease. Even though unsaturated fats are considered healthier, the goal is to consume no more then 30 percent of daily calories from all fats, states the Harvard School of Public Health.
The main concern with eating too much monounsaturated fat is weight gain. Monounsaturated fats, just like saturated fats, contain 9 calories per gram of fat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a diet high in any type of fat can lead to weight gain. To help manage weight, make sure that monounsaturated fats replace saturated fats and do not eat them in addition to saturated fats. To determine how much fat to eat each day, multiply the number of calories being consumed each day by 0.35 and then divide the answer by 9 to get the number of daily fat grams allowed. The number of calories should be only what is needed to maintain a healthy weight, or the number being consumed to lose weight.
Monounsaturated fats do not affect cholesterol levels the same way that saturated and trans fats do. According to the Cleveland Clinic, monounsaturated fats can inhibit the level of new cholesterol from building up in the body 1. Monounsaturated fats have also been found to decrease inflammation in the blood vessels which can help to lower blood pressure. However, to avoid weight gain, limit monounsaturated fats to no more then 10 to 20 percent of daily caloric intake. The rest should come mainly from polyunsaturated.
To fully reduce the risk of heart disease it is still important to eat monounsaturated fats in moderation, reports the American Dietetic Association 2. In general, the diet should be rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy. Since the body needs some fat to function properly, consume small amounts of nuts, vegetable oils, trans fat-free spreads, mayonnaise, salad dressings and peanut butter.
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