Fat is one of three types of nutrients used as energy by the body (the other two are protein and carbohydrate). Fat is a compound formed from chemicals called fatty acids. Total dietary fat is the sum of saturated, transfat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help reduce cholesterol in your blood when substituted for saturated and trans fats in the diet. Saturated and trans fats are greasy, solid materials found in animal tissues and in some plants. Fats not used for immediate energy are stored in adipocytes (fat cells) in humans. The energy produced by fats is nine calories per gram.
Structurally differs from unsaturated fat since they are "completely saturated" with hydrogen atoms, causing them to be solid at room temperature. They are found in meats, chicken skin and whole dairy products like milk, ghee, cheese, cream and ice cream. Some saturated fats are also found in plant foods like tropical oils (coconut or palm kernel oil) and chocolate.
A diet that contains too much saturated fat may increases our chances of getting heart disease since it tends to elevate "bad cholesterol" and can stiffen our blood vessels. Limit saturated fat no more than 15 grams/day for women and 20 grams/day for men (or 7 percent total calories). Lower is better.
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When liquid vegetable oils are changed into solid margarine or vegetable shortening, hydrogen atoms are added making some of the fat molecules "saturated". These are often found in the fast food and restaurant items that have been deep fried. Processed and packaged cookies, cracker and snack items may also contain trans fats.
Small amounts of naturally occurring trans fats are found in dairy or other livestock that we milk (sheep and goat). These are considered less deleterious that the manufactured versions which are known to raise total and LDL (bad) cholesterol while lowering protective HDL (good) cholesterol. Trans fats may induce harmful inflammation and vascular changes that promote plaque build-up in the cardiovascular system. Aim to keep these low (less than 1 percent total calories each day).
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