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November 2016

Fat and Cholesterol Update

What’s the latest on fat and cholesterol? Current dietary guidelines continue to recommend limiting saturated fat and avoiding trans-fats. Both are linked to increased risk of heart disease.  When it comes to cholesterol there are no specific limits in the current guidelines; however, it is still considered important.

Know Your Fats
Fat adds flavor to food, helps us feel full and is vital to brain function.  However, when it comes to health, not all fats are created equal and a little goes a long way.

Mono and Polyunsaturated Fats - are healthy fats and associated with decreased cardiovascular disease (CVD) and possibly increased longevity.  They are liquid at room temperature and come from plant sources.  They include; olive, canola and peanut oils, avocados and most nuts.  Omega-3 fats are in this group.

Saturated Fats - are considered to be unhealthy and linked to heart disease. At room temperature they are solid. These fats are found mainly in meat, poultry and dairy products.  Palm and coconut oils are also saturated fats.  Baked goods, fried, fast and processed foods are often high in saturated fat.

Trans or Hydrogenated Fats - Trans-fats occur in small amounts naturally, although most are manufactured and added to food.  Manufactured trans-fats are the unhealthiest.  Margarine, snack and processed foods, coffee creamers and microwave popcorn may contain these fats.  Banned in California in 2008, they still may be found in small amounts.  Most manufacturers are using palm or tropical oils instead, but remember these fats are generally saturated and are not healthy. 

How Much Fat? - Once nutrient needs are met from the main food groups, remaining calories can be from fat.  This amount depends on your calorie needs to maintain a healthy weight.  Typically, it is 20-35 grams of fat a day.  Choose mostly unsaturated fats.  Moderation is key, calories from fat add up quickly:

1 oz. Nuts (23 almonds) =17 gms 1/2 Avocado=15 gms 1 T. Oil=14 gms

  • Cholesterol: Most foods high in cholesterol are high in saturated fats, which are restricted.  Therefore, cholesterol is also limited.
  • Saturated Fats: 10% or less of total calories; replace with unsaturated fats.
  • Trans-Fat: Avoid this type of fat.  Check the ingredient label on the package.  Partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated fat is a trans-fat.

A Closer Look at Cholesterol
Cholesterol is not all bad. It is needed to form hormones, bile and vitamin D.  It is carried in different forms in our blood.  The two types are LDL and HDL cholesterol.  LDL cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease.  HDL appears to play a protective role.

Most of the cholesterol is made in our body.  Some comes from food including; meat, poultry, dairy products, shellfish and eggs.  These foods have saturated fat, except for eggs and shellfish.  Since eggs and shellfish are low in saturated fat they can be part of a healthy eating pattern.

Saturated fat is linked to increased blood cholesterol levels. More studies are needed regarding the impact of dietary cholesterol on blood cholesterol.


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