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Dietary Fats: Not All Fats Are Created Equal

What are fats?

There are two broad categories of fat, saturated and unsaturated. For the typical American, saturated fat comes from animals and unsaturated fat comes from plants. Saturated fat is solid at room temperature, unsaturated fat is liquid. In general, saturated fats are found in meat, eggs, and full-fat dairy. Unsaturated fats are found in plant products such as nuts, seeds, oils, and nut butters. Avocado is also a popular source of this nutrient. Coconut oil is a popular ingredient and the exception that demonstrates these rules. It is from a plant, but it is high in saturated fat AND solid at room temperature. A third type of fat, transfat, is man-made. It is often used in commercial cooking, especially in baked goods. It is a cheaper alternative to saturated fat. However, current evidence suggests that it is even more harmful than naturally occurring saturated fat.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest choosing foods rich in unsaturated fats and limit saturated fat and transfat. According to the American Heart Association, those who need to lower their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol should limit saturated fats to 6% of calories, or 11-13 g for someone eating roughly 2000 calories a day. This means focusing on including more plant-based foods in your meals and snacks every day.

Tips for including more healthy fats:

  • Choose vegetable oils like olive oil or canola oil over solid fats when cooking
  • Enjoy whole food fats like avocados and nuts with your meals and snacks
  • Have 2-3 servings of fish if you chose to eat it
  • Add hemp, chia, or flaxseed to smoothies, oatmeal, and yogurt
  • Chose fat-free or low-fat dairy to limit saturated fat
  • Limit red meat, fried, and baked goods