Knowing which fats raise LDL cholesterol and which ones don't is the first step in lowering your risk of heart disease. In addition to the LDL produced naturally by your body, saturated fat, trans-fatty acids and dietary cholesterol can also raise blood cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats appear to not raise LDL cholesterol; some studies suggest they might even help lower LDL cholesterol slightly when eaten as part of a low-saturated and trans-fat diet.
The American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee strongly advises these fat guidelines for healthy Americans over age 2:
Limit total fat intake to less than 25–35 percent of your total calories each day;
Limit saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of total daily calories;
Limit trans fat intake to less than 1 percent of total daily calories;
The remaining fat should come from sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, fish and vegetable oils; and
Limit cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day, for most people. If you have coronary heart disease or your LDL cholesterol level is 100 mg/dL or greater, limit your cholesterol intake to less than 200 milligrams a day.
Saturated fat is the main dietary cause of high blood cholesterol. Saturated fat is found mostly in foods from animals and some plants. Foods from animals include beef, beef fat, veal, lamb, pork, lard, poultry fat, butter, cream, milk, cheeses and other dairy products made from whole and 2 percent milk. Foods from plants that contain saturated fat include coconut, coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil (often called tropical oils), and cocoa butter.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are the two unsaturated fats. They're found mainly in many fish, nuts, seeds and oils from plants. Some examples of foods that contain these fats include salmon, trout, herring, avocados, olives, walnuts and liquid vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, safflower, canola, olive and sunflower.
Both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats may help lower your blood cholesterol level when you use them in place of saturated and trans fats.
Trans Fatty Acids and Hydrogenated Fats
Trans-fatty acids (TFA) are found in small amounts in various animal products such as beef, pork, lamb and the butterfat in butter and milk.
TFA are also formed during the process of hydrogenation, making margarine, shortening, cooking oils and the foods made from them a major source of TFA in the American diet. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils provide about three-fourths of the TFA in the U.S. diet. The trans fat content of foods is printed on the package of the Nutrition Facts label. Keep trans fat intake to less than 1 percent of total calories. For example, if you need 2,000 calories a day, you should consume less than 2 grams of trans fat.
Regulating your intake of trans fatty acids
The American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee strongly advises that healthy Americans over age 2 limit their intake of trans fat to less than 1 percent of total calories.
Delair O. Gardi, MD, FACC, FAAC, FSCAI
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