The Norman Transcript

May 8, 2013

Clearing up confusion about differences between types of fats

By Courtney Cheatham
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Q: I get confused when I see the different types of fats on the nutrition facts label. What are the differences and which ones are the best for my health?

A: We typically see four types of fats on food labels: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated and trans.

Fats are essential nutrients that the body needs that also provide it with energy. Fat provides 9 calories/1 gram of fat. The key is choosing the types that are healthier.

Monounsaturated fats decrease total cholesterol and LDL, or bad cholesterol. These can be found in avocados, nuts, olives and some oils, such as canola, olive and peanut oils.

Polyunsaturated fats include omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fats. Polyunsaturated fats decrease total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. These can be found in salmon, herring, nuts, flaxseed and corn oils.

Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help decrease triglycerides (fat molecules that flow in the blood stream). These help decrease the risk of heart disease. Choose your fat intake from these types.

Saturated fats are found in foods made from animal products like meat and dairy products. It is important to monitor the consumption of these fats because they can negatively impact triglycerides and total cholesterol. If these fats are eaten in excess, they can increase the risk of heart disease. Be sure to consume only about 10 percent of total calories as saturated fat.

Trans fats are a form of unsaturated fat that has been chemically altered. Because of this, the body does not recognize this type of fat. Trans fats increase total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and lowers HDL cholesterol, which is the good cholesterol.

Like saturated fats, trans fats increase the risk of heart disease. More food manufacturers and restaurants have taken out this type of fat from their food products. However, it is still important to check the ingredient list on food labels. Manufacturers can still put in 0-0.49 grams of trans fats and say that there are 0 grams in the food. Be sure to look for the ingredient “partially hydrogenated oils” because these tell you whether trans fats appear in our food.

For nutritional counseling, Norman Regional Health System offers the guidance of registered dietitians. Those interested can schedule an appointment for an assessment with a referral from their family physician.