Know Your Fats

Updated:May 1,2013

LDL cholesterol is affected by diet. Knowing which fats raise LDL cholesterol and which ones don't is the first step in lowering your risk of heart disease. In addition to the LDL produced naturally by your body, saturated fat, trans-fatty acids and dietary cholesterol can also raise blood cholesterol. Replacement of saturated fat and trans fat with monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat might help lower LDL cholesterol when eaten as part of a healthy diet.

The American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee strongly advises these fat guidelines for healthy Americans over age 2:

  • Limit total fat intake to less than 25–35 percent of your total calories each day;
  • Limit saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of total daily calories;
  • Limit trans fat intake to less than 1 percent of total daily calories; 
  • The remaining fat should come from sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as unsalted nuts and seeds, fish (especially oily fish, such as salmon, trout and herring, at least twice per week) and vegetable oils; and
  • Limit cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day, for most people.  If you have coronary heart disease or your LDL cholesterol level is 100 mg/dL or greater, limit your cholesterol intake to less than 200 milligrams a day.

For example, a sedentary female who is 31–50 years old needs about 2,000 calories each day. Therefore, she should consume less than 15 g saturated fat, less than 2 g trans fat and between 56 and 77 grams of total fat each day (with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, such as fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils). It's easier to gauge how much healthy and unhealthy food you are eating by using a food diary to keep track of what you eat for a period of time.


Know Your Fats

Saturated fat is found mostly in foods from animals and some plants. Foods from animals include beef, beef fat, veal, lamb, pork, lard, poultry fat, butter, cream, milk, cheeses and other dairy products made from whole and 2 percent milk. All of these foods also contain dietary cholesterol. Foods from plants that contain saturated fat include coconut, coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil (often called tropical oils), and cocoa butter.




This content was last reviewed on 12/10/2012.


The Fats Family

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