Get to the bottom of how much of the hidden, harmful fats lurk in your food
When you think of the "bad fats" -- the ones that can hurt your health -- you probably think of the saturated variety. They are the ones that can raise your levels of bad cholesterol, or LDL, as well as your risks of developing serious conditions like heart disease.
The Bigger Bad Boy
Health-wise, trans fats strike with a double whammy. They too can raise your levels of bad cholesterol, but they also can decrease your HDL, or "good" cholesterol. Together, these two effects are primary risks of developing heart disease, and they are a reason why many experts consider trans fats a bigger bad boy than saturated fat.
What are you supposed to do? For starters, lower the amounts of saturated and trans fats in your daily diet. You can do it by choosing reduced-fat foods, like lower-fat dairy and leaner cuts of beef. (They contain less total fat, less saturated fat, and less trans fats.) Reduced-fat crackers and microwave popping corn will contain less total fat, less saturated fat, and less trans fat. You get the picture.
And, it may not be a popular notion, but making your own meals -- yes, homemade ones -- really help you control how much fat you eat. You get to choose the type and amount of fat in each recipe you prepare. If you make pie crust, biscuits, or waffles, use canola oil instead of shortening and use less cooking fat, in general, whenever possible. It's those smart substitutions that help a lot.
Where Trans Fats Lurk
I keep mentioning all these terms like unsaturated, saturated, and trans fats. When you think about types of fats, remember that a lot has to do with the amount of hydrogen in each type of fat molecule.
When the molecules are all full of hydrogen -- or are saturated with it, the fat tends to be solid at room temperature. The monounsaturated fats have one double bond in their carbon chain and polyunsaturated fats have more than one double bond, and both are better for your health than saturated fats and trans fats.