Facts About Cholesterol
The Facts about Cholesterol continued...
The Fat Primer
The fats that supply calories, float in your blood and accumulate in your thighs and hips are called "triglycerides." They can be saturated or unsaturated, and the unsaturated ones can be either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. For every ounce of triglycerides you eat, you add 250 calories (or 9 calories per gram -- the weight of a raisin) to your diet. Only saturated fats increase blood levels of cholesterol and heart-disease risk.
Which Ones Are Saturated?
In general, the harder a fat, the more saturated it is. Beef and dairy fats are mostly saturated fats. Liquid oils are usually unsaturated fats, including monounsaturated fats in olive and canola oils and polyunsaturated fats in safflower, corn, soybean and fish oils. Coconut, palm and palm kernel oils are exceptions to the rule; these liquid vegetable oils are highly saturated fats.
Fear of Frying
Eating foods with a lot of saturated fat raises your risk for heart disease; this causes the amount of bad LDLs in your blood to increase while good HDLs decrease. Cut the saturated fat, and your blood-cholesterol levels and your risk for heart disease drop. Your risk for cancer also decreases. A diet with more polyunsaturated fats, rather than saturated fats, lowers total blood-cholesterol levels, but unfortunately also drops HDL levels, so you lose both good and bad cholesterol.
Olive oil is another story. This oil lowers total-blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol without causing HDL levels to drop. By using olive oil, you can decrease your total-cholesterol levels while maintaining your HDL levels, thus decreasing your risk for heart disease. Fish oil also lowers heart-disease risk. Consequently, olive and fish are the oils of choice.
Hydrogenated fats are liquid vegetable oils made creamy when manufacturers convert some of the unsaturated fats into saturated ones through a process called "hydrogenation." This process also rearranges the molecular shape of the remaining unsaturated fats. The resulting shape is an abnormal "trans" shape.
Trans fatty acids constitute up to 60 percent of the fat in processed foods containing hydrogenated fats. TFAs raise blood-cholesterol levels and increase heart-disease risk just like saturated fats.