Fat Friends and Foes

Updated:Feb 6,2015

salmon and olive oilFat. It’s a small word that can have a big impact on your health—and not just the jelly-belly kind of fat.

The good fat we eat provides us with energy and supports a number of our body's functions. Certain vitamins, for instance, need a little fat to help them dissolve and nourish your body. But it's a good idea to only choose the healthier types of dietary fat and enjoy them in moderation.

So, which fats are the healthy ones and which ones should you avoid?

  • Fats with your best interests at heart are monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. They are liquid at room temperature, such as olive oil, safflower oil, canola oil and corn oil. They’re also found in nuts and seeds. One kind of polyunsaturated fat, omega-3, may be especially beneficial to your heart. Omega-3s are found in some types of fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines and lake trout.
  • Fats to avoid are saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats come mainly from animal sources of food and are solid at room temperature, like bacon fat and butter. Some trans fats occur naturally in animal products, but most are made during food processing. Research studies show that these synthetic trans fats can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. They like to hide in manufactured snacks, pastries and boxed dinners. Look for “hydrogenated oils” in the ingredients list. Fortunately, their bad reputation has caused some savvy manufacturers to give them the boot. So should you.

Article copyright © 2015 American Heart Association. This recipe is brought to you by the American Heart Association's Simple Cooking with Heart © Program. For more articles and simple, quick and affordable recipes, visit heart.org/simplecooking.

Last reviewed 1/2015