Fat is a nutrient that is essential for the body to function normally. Fat supplies energy to the body and makes it possible for the other nutrients to do their jobs. Unfortunately, we often consume far more fat than is necessary, which can lead to excess cholesterol and obesity, which are two factors that increase the risk of heart disease.

About Fat

Saturated fat raises the LDL cholesterol level more than anything else that we eat. It is usually solid at room and refrigerator temperatures and is found in animal products (fatty cuts of meat, poultry with the skin, whole-milk dairy products, and lard) and coconut and palm oils. Diets that are high in saturated fat are a major cause of high cholesterol and the increased risk of heart disease. Reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet is a very effective way to lower the body's LDL cholesterol level.

Unsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature and can be found in vegetable oils (canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil), most nuts, olives, avocados, and fatty fish, such as salmon. Unsaturated fats do not raise LDL cholesterol levels, but they are high in calories, so they should be used in moderation.

Transfat increases the bodies LDL cholesterol levels. Foods made with hydrogenated vegetable oils, including many hard margarines and shortenings, are the main sources of transfats. The more firm these products are, the more transfats they contain.

With total fat, the food product labels will often list the total amount of fat that they contain, including saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and transfats. Although not all fat is a source of cholesterol, all fat is high in calories. In general, no more than 35 percent of ones daily calories should come from fat.

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