Saturated, monounsaturated, trans and poly. Are you confused yet? You may be even if you’ve been keeping up on what types of fat to eat and which to shun. By now you’ve probably heard of stealthy trans-fats. If they’re not on the “Nutrition Facts” panel yet, they’re soon to arrive.
Trans-fats are sinister because like saturated fat, they raise total cholesterol and LDL, the “bad” cholesterol levels. Trans-fats lower levels of beneficial, HDL cholesterol in the body. Also, consumption of trans-fats may inhibit the absorption of healthy fats that are necessary for the growth and functioning of vital organs. Though much has been made about the dangers of trans-fats, experts caution that those warnings shouldn’t overshadow the potentially disastrous effects of saturated fats. Medical expert Dr. Andrea Pennington states that saturated fats “…increase your cholesterol levels, which can lead to clogged arteries, heart attacks, strokes and obesity.”
Trimming the Fat
- Keep your total fat intake to around 30 percent of your total calorie intake
- Limit saturated fat intake to no more than 7 to 10 percent of your intake
- Get about 10 to 15 percent of total calories from monounsaturated fats
For an individual eating 2,000 calories a day this translates to 66 grams of total fat and no more than 16 to 22 grams of saturated fat per day.
What’s the bottom line? At 9 calories per gram, fats are our most caloric energy source, so we need to keep track of how much we’re eating, no matter what type. Still, you’ll improve your health greatly by eating more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. Make an effort to cut back on saturated fats and try to avoid trans-fats.
Frances Largeman, R.D., earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at Columbia University in New York. Frances has appeared on local and national TV and has been quoted in Cooking Light magazine, as well as food and health sections of local newspapers across the country.