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Fats are nutrients that give you energy. Fats have 9 calories in each gram. Fats help in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fats are either saturated or unsaturated, and most foods with fat have both types. But usually there is more of one kind of fat than the other.
Saturated fat is solid at room temperature, which is why it is also known as "solid fat." It is mostly in animal foods, such as milk, cheese, and meat. Poultry and fish have less saturated fat than red meat. Saturated fat is also in tropical oils, such as coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter. You'll find tropical oils in many snacks and in nondairy foods, such as coffee creamers and whipped toppings. Foods made with butter, margarine, or shortening (cakes, cookies, and other desserts) have a lot of saturated fat. Saturated fat can raise your cholesterol. A healthy diet has less than 10% of daily calories from saturated fat.footnote 1
This is a fat that has been changed by a process called hydrogenation. This process increases the shelf life of fat and makes the fat harder at room temperature. Harder fat makes crispier crackers and flakier pie crusts. Trans fat can raise your cholesterol, so eat as little trans fat as possible. You'll find it in:
Unsaturated fat is liquid at room temperature. It is mostly in oils from plants. If you eat unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat, it may help improve your cholesterol levels. Try to eat mostly unsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat are types of unsaturated fat.
Total fat includes saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and trans fat.
Review the nutrition facts label on food packaging to learn the total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat. Food labels are not required to list monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture (2015). 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans 8th ed. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. Accessed January 12, 2016.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture (2010). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, 7th ed. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Also available online: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2010.asp.
Current as of:
September 8, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Kathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineRhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Current as of: September 8, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
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