A 2006 survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation found that people aren’t clear about good fat, bad fat and cholesterol. Although 72 percent said they were concerned about the types of fat they ate, about 42 percent were trying to cut back on one of the good kinds of fat (polyunsaturated).
So if you need a cheat sheet, you’re not alone. Here are the different types of fats, and how they impact your heart health:
Found in: Butter, lard, coconut oils.
What it does: Raises LDL; blocks protective effect of HDL.
Found in: Packaged and processed foods. (Look for “partially hydrogenated oil” on the ingredients label.)
What it does: Raises LDL; lowers HDL.
Found in: Corn, soybean and flaxseed oils.
What it does: Lowers LDL; no effect on HDL.
Found in: Safflower, olive, sunflower, canola and peanut oils.
What it does: Lowers LDL; may raise HDL.
Eating a diet high in saturated or trans fat increases inflammation, whereas a diet that contains more unsaturated fat may help lower inflammation.
Which fat is best?
We asked Sue Moores, a registered dietitian and president of SDM Communications in St. Paul, Minn., to boil it down for us. “When you are cooking with oils, you need to answer two questions: How much do you use, and how often do you use it?” says Moores. If you use a lot, and you use it often – several nights a week – then you may want to stick with monounsaturated fats to get the biggest benefit, she says. But keep the overall amount of fat you consume to less than 65 grams (g) per day.
TIP: How to remember which fats are better for you when it comes to fat and cholesterol: They’re the UNfats (monoUNsaturated and polyUNsaturated).