Types of Dietary Fat
For many years, popular diets have recommended low-fat meals to promote heart health. However, recent studies have shown certain types of fats are actually healthy for your heart. Dietary fats are separated into four major groups:
Saturated Fat: A diet rich in saturated fat can increase LDL cholesterol, which can lead to blockages forming in the arteries. Saturated fats are found in red meat, whole-milk dairy products, and many baked goods. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming less than 10% of calories per day from saturated fat.
Trans Fats: The worst type of dietary fat. Trans fat raises harmful cholesterol (LDL) and creates inflammation, which is linked to heart disease. According to Harvard Medical School, even small amounts of trans fats can harm health: for every 2% of calories from trans fat consumed daily, the risk of heart disease rises by 23%.
Monounsaturated Fat: Consuming foods that are high in monounsaturated fat may help lower LDL cholesterol and maintain your HDL cholesterol. High levels of HDL cholesterol can help lower your risk of heart disease. Foods that are high in monounsaturated fat include nuts, avocado, peanut oil, and olive oil.
Polyunsaturated Fat: Polyunsaturated fats are essential fats, meaning your body requires them for normal function. Eating a diet high in polyunsaturated fat and low in saturated fat may help lower LDL cholesterol. The two types of polyunsaturated fat are omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, canola and soybean oil, walnuts, and flaxseed. Omega-6 fatty acids are mainly found in vegetable oils (soybean, corn, and safflower).
In summary, a diet high in unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) and low in saturated fats (trans and saturated) may lead to a lower risk of heart disease.
- The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good
- Types of fats. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/aa160619
- LDL and HDL Cholesterol: "Bad" and "Good" Cholesterol. https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/ldl_hdl.htm