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Fat Facts: Good Fats vs. Bad Fats

The right fats are actually good for you.

Dietary Fat: What's Right for You? continued...

Suggested daily fat intake is tied to calorie needs. The two fats to limit are:

  • Saturated fat found in meats, butter, cream, or ice cream, and other foods with animal fat.
  • Trans fat, a man-made fat found in some margarines or packaged baked.

Here are some examples of healthy daily fat allowances.

1,800 Calories a Day

  • 40 to 70 grams of total fat
  • 14 grams or less of saturated fat
  • 2 grams or less of trans fat  

2,200 Calories a Day

  • 49 to 86 grams of total fat
  • 17 grams or less of saturated fat
  • 3 grams or less of trans fat

2,500 Calories a Day

  • 56 to 97 grams of total fat
  • 20 grams or less of saturated fat
  • 3 grams or less of trans fat.

MyPyramid.gov helps you determine a daily calorie level right for you. If you want to lose weight, eat less than what MyPyramid suggests for your age, gender, and physical activity level, but don't eat less than 1,600 calories a day. 

The Facts on Unsaturated Fats

Dietary fat is categorized as saturated or unsaturated. Unsaturated fats -- monounsaturated and polyunsaturated -- should be the dominant type of fat in a balanced diet, because they reduce the risk of clogged arteries.

While foods tend to contain a mixture of fats, monounsaturated fat is the primary fat found in:

  • olive, canola, and sesame oils
  • avocado
  • nuts, such as almonds, cashews, and pistachios; peanuts and peanut butter

Polyunsaturated fat is prevalent in:

  • corn, cottonseed, and safflower oils
  • sunflower seeds and sunflower oil
  • flaxseed and flaxseed oil
  • soybeans and soybean oil
  • tub margarine
  • seafood 

The Facts on Omega-3 Fats

When it comes to good-for-you fat, seafood stands out. Seafood harbors omega-3 fats called DHA (docosahexanoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentanoic acid), unsaturated fats considered central to a child's brain development and eyesight, and for heart health.

Omega-3 fats are linked to lower levels of blood triglycerides (fats), reduced risk of clots that block the flow of blood to the heart and brain, and a normal heart beat, among other benefits.

Seafood contains preformed omega-3 fats, the type the body prefers. Adults and children can make DHA and EPA from the essential fat alpha-linolenic acid, found in foods such as walnuts and flax, but experts say less than 10% is actually converted. Fatty, cold-water fish, such as salmon, sardines, and tuna are rich in preformed omega-3s. 

The Facts on Unhealthy Saturated Fat

When eaten to excess, saturated fat contributes to clogged arteries that block blood flow, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Saturated fat is worse than dietary cholesterol when it comes to raising blood cholesterol levels, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

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