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The Skinny on Fats
image: various foods on counterFats are an essential building block of good health, although some are better for you than others. Here are some guidelines for incorporating the right fats into a balanced diet: 

Potentially Harmful Fats:
Saturated fat
 is consumed mainly via red meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Some plant-derived foods also contain it, specifically palm and coconut oils. Saturated fat is less healthy because it raises total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, increasing risk for cardiovascular disease and potentially Type 2 diabetes. 

The government's latest guidelines suggest no greater than 10 percent of total calories come from saturated fat. 

TIP: Choose lean proteins and low-fat or fat-free dairy products to get their key nutrients while cutting saturated fat. 

Transfats are most often produced through the hydrogenation food process (although some natural transfats can be found in meat and dairy). Transfats remain solid at room temperature like butter, shortening and margarine. Consuming these fats can increase "bad" LDL cholesterol and lower "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, increasing risk of cardiovascular disease. 

TIP: Always read food labels. The words hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated or shortening mean transfat. 

Healthier Fats:
Monounsaturated fats
 can help reduce the risk of heart disease and may help insulin levels. These types of fats are often liquid at room temperature. 

Polyunsaturated fats are found mostly in oils and plant-based foods. One type is omega-3 fatty acids, which are especially beneficial to your heart health and can be found in fish, nuts and seeds. 

TIP: Change ingredients in dishes to lean meats, low-fat or fat-free cheeses, and healthier oils like olive, peanut and safflower oils. Nuts, seeds, olives, fatty fish and avocados are also good sources. 

Read more about the government's lastest dietary recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020

As always, check with your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program. 

Sources: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture, SELF, Mayo Clinic
Posted 6:04 PM

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