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Fats are nutrients that give you
energy. Fats have 9 calories in each gram. Fats help in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fats are either saturated or
unsaturated, and most foods with fat have both
types. But usually there is more of one
kind of fat than the other.
Saturated fat is solid at room
temperature, which is why it is also known as "solid fat." It is mostly in animal
foods, such as milk, cheese, and
meat. Poultry and fish have less saturated fat than red meat. Saturated fat is
also in tropical oils, such as coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter.
You'll find tropical oils in many snacks and in
nondairy foods, such as coffee creamers and whipped
toppings. Foods made with butter, margarine, or shortening (cakes, cookies, and other desserts) have a lot of saturated fat. Saturated fat can raise your
cholesterol. A healthy diet has less than 10% of daily calories from saturated fat.1
This is a fat that has been
changed by a process called hydrogenation. This
process increases the shelf life of fat and
makes the fat harder at room
temperature. Harder fat makes crispier crackers and flakier pie crusts. Trans
fat can raise your cholesterol, so eat as
little trans fat as possible. You'll find it
Unsaturated fat is liquid at room
temperature. It is mostly in oils from plants.
If you eat unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat, it
may help improve your cholesterol levels. Try to eat mostly
unsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat are types of unsaturated fat.
Total fat includes saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fat.
Review the nutrition facts label on food packaging to learn the total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat. Food labels are not required to list monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S.
Department of Agriculture (2010). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, 7th ed. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing
Office. Also available online:
November 9, 2013
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
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