Saturated fats raise your LDL ("bad") cholesterol level. High LDL cholesterol puts you at risk for heart attack, stroke, and other major health problems. You should avoid or limit foods that are high in saturated fats.
- Keep saturated fats to less than 6% of your total daily calories.
- Foods with a lot of saturated fats are animal products, such as butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream, cream, and fatty meats.
- Some vegetable oils, such as coconut, palm, and palm kernel oil, also contain saturated fats. These fats are solid at room temperature.
- A diet high in saturated fat increases cholesterol buildup in your arteries (blood vessels). Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance that can cause clogged, or blocked, arteries.
Eating unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats can help lower your LDL cholesterol. Most vegetable oils that are liquid at room temperature have unsaturated fats. There are two kinds of unsaturated fats:
- Mono-unsaturated fats, which include olive and canola oil
- Polyunsaturated fats, which include safflower, sunflower, corn, and soy oil
Trans fatty acids are unhealthy fats that form when vegetable oil hardens in a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenated fats, or "trans fats," are often used to keep some foods fresh for a long time.
Trans fats are also used for cooking in some restaurants. They can raise LDL cholesterol levels in your blood. They can also lower your HDL ("good") cholesterol levels.
Trans fats are under review for their health effects. Experts are working to limit the amount of trans fats used in packaged foods and restaurants.
You should avoid foods made with hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (such as hard butter and margarine). They contain high levels of trans-fatty acids.
It is important to read nutrition labels on foods. This will help you know what kinds of fats, and how much, your food contains.
Talk with your health care provider about how to cut down on the amount of fat you eat. Your doctor can refer you to a dietitian who can help you learn more about foods and help you plan a healthy diet. Make sure you have your cholesterol levels checked according to a schedule your health care provider gives you.