Any time you see a fat that’s solid at room temperature, that’s what’s called saturated fat. These fats clog arteries and raise cholesterol, and should generally eb limited to 10 percent or less of your daily calorie intake, 20 grams or less. The foods highest in saturated fats are red meat, animal-derived foods like cheese, milk, and butter, tropical oils like coconut, palm oil, and cocoa butter, margarine, shortening, and lard.
There’s been a major campaign to get food companies to cut down on or eliminate their use of trans fats lately, and with food reason: they’re absolutely horrible for you, raising your cholesterol and helping to contribute to the growing obesity epidemic. These fats go through a process called hydrogenation, where hydrogen atoms are added to the fat molecules to halp keep them more shelf-stable, and any time you see a product with partially or fully-hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list, you’ve found a food that contains trans fats. Most processed foods contain trans fats, like snack mixes and crackers, as do cookies, margarine and some salad dressings, any food made with shortening, and fast and prepared foods.
Unsaturated fat is any fat that’s a liquid at room temperature. There are two types of monounsaturated fat: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, and the names derive from their respective molecular structures. Monounsaturated fat can actually help lower your cholesterol if eaten in conjunction with less saturated fat, and it’s found in vegetable oils like canola, olive, and peanut oil, as well as avocados, nuts, and seeds. Avocadoes might be high in fat, but it’s the good kind!
Polyunsaturated fat is also good for you, and can help to lower cholesterol as well. It’s the primary type of fat that’s found in fish, and is so healthy that folks take fish oil in pill form. They’re also found in vegetable oils including sesame, soybean, safflower, sunflower, and corn.
There are two types of polyunsaturated fats: Omega-3 and Omega-6, and both need to be worked into your diet if you want to stay healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids are the ones found in oily fish including sardines, salmon, herring, anchovies, trout, and mackerel, and a healthy diet should include at least 8 ounces of these fish per week, or 250 milligrams per day. It’s also found in soybean, canola, and flaxseed oils, as well as walnuts.
Omega-6 fatty acids should also be worked into your diet. They can be found mostly in liquid vegetable oils like corn oil, soybean oil, and safflower oil.