Dietary fat gets a bad rap, but there are several different types and not all are bad. The key to eating healthfully is knowing which fats are good, and to eat them in moderation while avoiding the unhealthy ones. Saturated fats are unhealthy and should be minimized, while unsaturated fats are very good for the cells. Here's some more information to help you make healthy food choices and keep your cholesterol in check:
These "bad" fats raise both total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein – or unhealthy cholesterol – levels. They clog up the arteries by sticking together in the bloodstream and forming plaques, which can cause heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Saturated fats stay solid at room temperature and are found in animal products like eggs, meat, dairy and seafood. Palm and palm kernel oils are two very common saturated fats used in processed foods, so if you see these on the label, avoid them.
Another type of fats, which are even more unhealthy, are trans fats. Most trans fats are artificially created by partially hydrogenating unsaturated fats. If you see the words "partially hydrogenated" on a package, avoid eating that food ingredient because it contains trans fats. These artificially produced fats can increase levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood and lower the levels of HDL, or "good" cholesterol.
In contrast, unsaturated fats are the "good" fats when, in eaten in moderation, are very important for heart and overall health. They fall into two categories: polyunsaturated fats, which are found in sunflower and fish oils and omega-3 fatty acids, and monounsaturated fats, which are found in almonds, walnuts, avocados and olive oil. Unsaturated fats can actual lower the body's levels of cholesterol and blood pressure. Unsaturated fats are easy to recognize because they are liquid at room temperature.