Getting to the Heart of a Healthful Diet: Fats

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IMAGE Fat gets a bad rap, mostly for its association with weight gain and heart disease. However, fats are an important part of a balanced diet. Our bodies need fat for warmth, protection, and to carry out vital functions. The fats we eat effect the amount and type of cholesterol in our blood. There are 3 major types of cholesterol in the body, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and triglycerides. High levels of LDLs (known as bad cholesterol) and triglycerides are a major risk factor for coronary artery disease (CAD), which leads to heart attack or stroke. However, high levels of HDLs (known as good cholesterol) reduce the risk of CAD. The trick is to know which fats are good and which are bad and create a balanced diet with this knowledge. Dietary choices can be confusing but some simple fat facts below may help.

The Bad

You probably have heard about saturated and trans fats. These fats do more harm than good. They raise you bad cholesterol levels and lower your good cholesterol. Limit these fats as much as possible.Saturated fats are associated with animal products, such as red meat, poultry with skin, lard, cream, butter, and whole-fat dairy. It can also be found in in bakery items and fried foods. Fortunately, you can control the amount of saturated fat in your diet without having to completely give up these foods. Look for low fat version of meat and dairy and limit your portion sizes of foods with saturated fats.Most trans fats are additives, that are generally considered the worse type of fat. You can find them in deep fried foods, and bakery items like cookies and donuts. On food labels, trans fats may appear as partially hydrogenated oils. Again, these treats do not have to be completely eliminated, however, look for options that are made with healthier fats. For example, many restaurants have chosen to eliminate or reduce trans fats in their foods. Again, limit your portion sizes. This will allow you to eat your favorite foods without the negative consequences.That's the bad news, now on to the good.

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