Choosing Unsaturated Fats over Saturated Fats in Your Diet - dummies

Choosing Unsaturated Fats over Saturated Fats in Your Diet

By Jane Kirby, The American Dietetic Association

All fat has the same number of calories, but a diet that contains unsaturated fat instead of foods that contain saturated fats can help reduce your blood cholesterol level.

Unsaturated fat is classified as either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Monounsaturated fats reduce the harmful low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) and leave the protective high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) in place. Research shows that polyunsaturated fats reduce both LDLs and HDLs.

Confused about what foods contain significant amounts of saturated, polyunsaturated, or monounsaturated fat? The following table gives you a quick look at what foods contain which types of fat.

Figuring Out the Fats
Saturated Polyunsaturated Monounsaturated Trans fats
Butter, lard Corn oil Canola oil Stick margarine
Dairy products (except nonfat) Fish oils Olive oil Solid vegetable shortening
Meat and poultry Cottonseed oil Peanut oil
Palm oil, palm kernel oil Safflower oil Other nut oils
Coconut oil Sesame oil
Soybean oil
Sunflower oil

Most varieties of fish contain omega-3, a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that’s associated with a decreased risk of heart disease in certain people.

Here’s the bottom line when it comes to fat. Choose

  • Mostly monounsaturated fats

  • A little less polyunsaturated fat

  • Very few saturated fats

  • As little as possible trans fats

Your body (specifically, the liver) can make all the cholesterol it needs. This type of cholesterol is referred to as blood cholesterol. But cholesterol also comes from foods that you eat; it’s known as dietary cholesterol. You can get dietary cholesterol only from animal sources, such as egg yolks, meat (especially organ meats like liver), poultry, fish, and higher-fat dairy products. Plant foods don’t contain cholesterol.

Often, foods that are high in cholesterol are also high in saturated fats. Although it was believed that dietary cholesterol was mainly responsible for raising blood cholesterol levels, researchers now know that saturated fat is the main culprit that causes your body’s cholesterol factory to work overtime.