Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Myth: All fats are created equal.

Answer: BUSTED!

Making decisions about what kinds of fat to eat can be confusing. Our bodies actually need some fat to carry fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat also provides energy for our body and plays a role in hormone production. However, some fats should be limited because they can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk for heart disease.

We want to limit the amount of saturated fats and trans fats. These can contribute to higher cholesterol levels and put us more at risk for heart disease. Saturated fats and trans fats raise bad cholesterol (LDL) levels in your blood and increase the risk of heart disease.

Saturated fats
  • Usually solid at room temperature
  • Found in meat, butter, whole milk, palm and coconut oil

Trans fats
  • Foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils usually contain trans fats.
  • Trans fats are found in many cakes, cookies, crackers, icings, margarines and microwave popcorns.

We want to eat more of the healthy fats – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, and omega-3 fatty acids. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can lower bad cholesterol levels and may be beneficial when consumed in moderation.

Monounsaturated fats
  • Typically liquid at room temperature
  • Found in olive, canola and peanut oil
salmon, walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, olive oil and fish oil capsules

Polyunsaturated fats
  • Tend to be liquid at room temperature
  • Found in soybean, safflower and corn oil

Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Fatty fish like tuna, mackerel and salmon
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseed

Regardless of the type, you still don’t want to eat large amounts of fat. All fats have 9 calories per gram, so the calories can really add up. Check the food label for information on total fat, trans fat and saturated fat.

Make sure to choose the healthy fats most of the time and limit the amounts you eat to balance your caloric intake.

Visit to find more information on fats and health.

Contributor: Karen Sherbondy, MEd, RD, LD, Extension Associate, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, University of Missouri Extension, 816-655-6227

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