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Dietary fats: Know which types to choose
By Mayo Clinic Staff in Nutrition

Dietary fats: Know which types to choose
Dietary fats: Know which types to choose

Your body needs some fat to function normally. But it's wise to choose the healthier types of dietary fat and enjoy them — in moderation. Here's help choosing healthy fats.

Fats: The good and the bad

Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are your best choices. Look for products with little or no saturated fats, and avoid trans fats. Both increase blood-cholesterol levels and can increase your risk of heart disease. Keep in mind that all fats — the good stuff as well as the bad — are high in calories, so measuring and moderation are key.

The good:

  • Monounsaturated fats are found in olive, canola and peanut oils, as well as in avocados and most nuts.
  • Polyunsaturated fats are found in other plant-based oils, such as safflower, corn, sunflower, soybean, sesame and cottonseed oils. Omega-3 fats are polyunsaturated fats.

The bad:

  • Saturated fats are found in animal-based foods, such as meats, poultry, lard, egg yolks and whole-fat dairy products, including butter and cheese. They're also in cocoa butter and coconut, palm and other tropical oils, which are used in many coffee lighteners, snack crackers, baked goods and other processed foods.
  • Trans fats — also called hydrogenated vegetable oils — are found in hardened vegetable fats, such as stick margarine and vegetable shortening. Lots of foods contain these unhealthy ingredients, including crackers, cookies, cakes, pies and other baked goods, as well as many candies, snack foods and french fries.

Making healthy choices

Here are some tips to help you limit and make over the fat in your diet:

  • Use the Nutrition Facts label and ingredient list when selecting foods. Look for the amount of trans fat listed. By law a serving of food containing less than 0.5 grams of trans fat can be labeled as 0 grams. As a result, it's also important to check ingredient lists for the term "partially hydrogenated."
  • Prepare fish, such as salmon and mackerel, instead of meat at least twice a week to get a source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Limit sizes to 4 ounces of cooked seafood a serving, and bake or broil seafood instead of frying.
  • Use oil instead of solid fats. For example, saute with olive oil instead of butter, and use canola oil when baking.
  • Select milk and dairy products that are low in fat.
  • Snack on whole fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods.

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