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What Do Saturated & Trans Fats Do to Your Body?

By Lynne Sheldon ; Updated August 14, 2017

Fats are essential to your diet because they have several important functions such as providing your body with energy and contributing to bodily processes like the digestion of vitamins. However, while certain fats are considered healthy, saturated and trans fats are not. These fats can raise your cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk for heart disease. Talk to your doctor about limiting or even eliminating these sources of fat from your diet while emphasizing healthier ones.

Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are usually found in animal products including meats, poultry with skin and whole-milk dairy products. When you consume foods with saturated fat, it can raise your LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, getting too much saturated fat in your diet can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Limit your intake of this type of fat to 7 percent of your total daily calories or less.

Trans Fats

Trans fats, also known as trans fatty acids, occur naturally in animal-based foods, but they are also created through the process of hydrogenating saturated fats. This is how hydrogenated vegetable oils are formed, which are commonly used in fast foods and most processed food items. Trans fats are even worse for your cholesterol levels than saturated fats. Not only do they raise your LDL cholesterol, but they also lower your HDL, or “good,” cholesterol. They can increase inflammation in your body as well, which is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Your daily intake of trans fats should be 2 grams or less and preferably zero.

Importance of Good Fats

Just because you need to limit saturated and trans fats does not mean you need to follow a diet completely devoid of fat. Your total daily intake of fat from all sources should be between 20 and 35 percent of your total daily calories. While limiting saturated and trans fats, try increasing the amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that you eat. These can improve your cholesterol levels, reduce bodily inflammation and regulate your heartbeat. Good sources of these healthy fats include olive oil, avocados, walnuts, flaxseed oil, seeds and fatty fish.

Additional Considerations

Talk to your doctor about the amount of saturated and trans fats you consume, and ask how you can limit them. If you have high cholesterol or other health conditions, you may need to decrease your fat intake further than the typical recommended amounts. Your doctor can help you determine how much and what types of fats you need each day. Learning to read food labels is essential when trying to cut back on saturated and trans fats, as they are found in many common food items.

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