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Telling the Difference Between Good, Bad Fats

Experts give advice on figuring out which ones are OK to eat

FRIDAY, Feb. 27, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- There's a lot of discussion about good fats and bad fats, but it may be difficult for you to remember which ones you can eat and which ones you should avoid.

The February issue of the Mayo Health Letter offers some advice. It says you should avoid the following fats:

  • Saturated fat. This fat raises blood cholesterol, especially low-density lipoprotein (LDL), commonly referred to as the "bad" cholesterol. Saturated fat is found in red meat, poultry skin, butter, cheese, full-fat dairy products, coconut oil and palm oil.
  • Trans fat, which is also called hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Trans fat is found in margarine and shortening and foods -- such as cookies, crackers and other commercially baked goods -- made with these ingredients. Trans fat raises LDL cholesterol and lowers high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the "good" cholesterol.

Instead of those fats, the Mayo Health Letter suggests you use:

  • Monounsaturated fat, which is found in olive, peanut and canola oils, avocados and most nuts. This fat lowers LDL cholesterol.
  • Polyunsaturated fat. This is found in vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower, corn, soy and cottonseed oil. This fat also helps lower LDL cholesterol. But polyunsaturated fat is more susceptible to chemical changes that may influence the risk of some diseases.
  • Omega-3 fat, which is found in fatty cold water fish, canola oil, flaxseed, soybeans, tofu, walnuts and fish oil capsules. Omega-3 fat helps increase levels of HDL cholesterol and may help lower triglycerides.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about fats.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, February 2004
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