The skinny on fat: What you need to know to make healthy choices

Learn about the different types of fats, how to avoid the unhealthy ones and what you can do to reduce your fat intake overall.

Summer is the season of fairs, festivals and cookouts, all of which conjure up associations of food that fall in the “sometime” category of indulgence. The majority of these are loaded with fat that can clog arteries over time, leading to heart damage. Below are some facts about the different types of fat in food. 

Trans Fat = hydrogenated—liquid turned into a solid for longer shelf life

This type of fat should be avoided because it:

  • Raises “bad” (LDL) cholesterol
  • Lowers “good” (HDL) cholesterol
  • Increases risk of heart disease and stroke

Trans fats are found in baked goods such as pastries, pie crusts, biscuits, cookies and crackers, as well as in stick margarines and shortenings.

Saturated Fat = solid at room temperature

This type of fat should be limited because it:

  • Raises “bad” (LDL) cholesterol
  • Increases risk of heart disease and stroke

Saturated fats are found in animal foods such as fatty beef, poultry with skin, cream, butter, cheese and whole milk; baked goods; fried foods and coconut oil.

Unsaturated Fat = liquid at room temperature

This type of fat should make up most of the fat eaten because it:

  • Lowers “bad” (LDL) cholesterol
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Provides fats needed, like omega 3 fatty acids

Unsaturated fat is found in vegetable oils such as olive oil, canola oil, or sunflower oil; avocados; peanut butter; fatty fish and many nuts/seeds.

To limit unhealthy fats you can:

  • Choose lean cuts of meat or poultry
  • Choose non-meat proteins like fish, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds more often
  • Roast, grill or stir fry meats and avoid deep frying
  • Read labels and choose foods with less saturated fat and NO trans fats
  • Read ingredient to avoid foods that list “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils

For “all the time,” there are many tasty fruit and vegetable ideas to lower fat, cool you off and refuel your body. Try:

  • Freezing blueberries, raspberries or grapes on a cookie sheet
  • Dipping fresh carrots, celery, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers and peppers in plain yogurt mixed with a packet of ranch, green onion or your choice of seasonings
  • Fill an ice cube tray with 100% juice and add your juice ice cubes to flavor water or blend in with yogurt and fresh fruit for a smoothie
  • When baking try substituting applesauce for some of the oil required by a recipe
  • Make simple switches for example pretzels as opposed to potato chips, granola bars as opposed to cookies, and yogurt as opposed to ice cream

Removing trans-fat and reducing saturated fats will set you on a healthier path. Your heart will thank you.

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