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Health Information Fats and Lipids

Fats Explained

Fatty acids are the basic chemical units in fat. They may be saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated or trans fats.

These fatty acids differ in their chemical compositions and structures, and in the way in which they affect your blood cholesterol levels, according to the following:

  • Saturated fat: used by the liver to manufacture cholesterol. It is considered the most dangerous kind of fat because it has been shown to raise blood cholesterol levels, particularly the LDL. Saturated fat should comprise no more than seven percent of your daily calorie intake. Examples include: meats, butter, cocoa butter, coconut and palm oils.
  • Polyunsaturated fats: do not appear to raise blood cholesterol levels. Examples include safflower, sunflower, corn, and vegetable oils, margarines and soybean oils.
  • Monounsaturated fats: do not seem to have any affect on blood cholesterol. Examples include olive and canola oils.
  • Trans fats: by-products of hydrogenation, a chemical process used to change liquid unsaturated fat to a more solid fat. Structurally similar to saturated fat, trans fatty acids may have a great impact on raising total and LDL cholesterol levels. Examples include stick margarine and fats found in commercially prepared cakes, cookies and snack foods.

Total fat intake should be no more than 30 percent of your daily calorie intake. Saturated fat is the main dietary cause of high blood cholesterol, according to the American Heart Association, which recommends limiting saturated fat intake to seven percent of total calories a day.

Fat is the most concentrated source of calories, supplying more than twice as many calories per gram as either carbohydrates or proteins. All fats contain about the same number of calories, teaspoon for teaspoon. There is no “low-fat” fat.

Most people tend to get far too much fat in their diets, which contributes to health problems such as obesity, high blood cholesterol, and heart disease. While coconut and palm oils contain no cholesterol, they are high in saturated fat and should be avoided.

Read about the effects of a high saturated fat meal on the heart in “Being Good to the Heart: Avoiding Holiday Fat.”

Read “Making Your Holidays Healthy and Light” for ideas on how to reduce fat in your diet.

Looking for more information on diet and how it affects the heart:

More Information at Your Fingertips:
  • For more information about nutritional services at Rush visit our Food and Nutritional Services home page.
  • For more information about heart care services at Rush visit our Heart and Vascular Programs home page.
  • Looking for information on other health topics? Visit our Health Information home page.
  • Looking for a dietitian? Call (312) 942-DIET (3438).
  • Looking for a doctor? Call toll free: 888 352-RUSH (7874)

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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Avoiding Holiday Fat
Discover Rush, 2006 - Winter
Fats and Lipids

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