By now, we know there are both "good" fats and "bad" fats. But what's the difference?
First, the good. Unsaturated fats, which include both monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, are found primarily in plant-based sources and can decrease cholesterol levels and inflammation and regulate heart rhythms, according to Harvard School of Public Health. These fats can be found in avocados, nuts, fish, flaxseeds and olive, peanut and canola oil, to name a few. (For examples of foods that can naturally lower your cholesterol, click here.)
And now for the bad. Trans fats, which are created during processing, raise bad (LDL) cholesterol and lower the good (HDL). And saturated fats, which are found mostly in animal products and some plant oils, can raise blood cholesterol levels, and ultimately increase the risk of both heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association.
Together, decreasing consumption of the bad fats and increasing consumption of the good, can help you to lower overall cholesterol. (It's important these steps happen in tandem -- cutting out saturated fats, for instance, and replacing them with refined carbohydrates certainly won't improve health.) But even unsaturated fats can be bad for your health when not consumed in moderation -- the American Heart Association recommends limiting fat intake to 25 to 35 percent of your daily total calories, with most of that coming from the "good" fat category.
So what to avoid? The American Heart Association reports that saturated fats occur naturally in animal-based foods such as fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, cream, butter and cheese, as well as certain plant-based foods, such as palm oil and coconut oil.
According to the most recent USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, people should consume no more than 10 percent of daily calories from saturated fats by replacing them with the unsaturated kind -- that adds up to about 22 grams of saturated fat a day for someone on a 2,000-calories-a-day diet.
Certain foods blow that count right out of the water in a single serving. Cheeseburgers, for instance, have a bad reputation when it comes to saturated fats. And a well deserved one: a quarter pounder with cheese at McDonald's has 12 grams, while a Whopper sandwich with cheese at Burger King has 16 (almost enough for a whole day's worth in a single meal -- before the fries). But burgers aren't the only saturated fat culprit -- to help you make more sound choices, we rounded up just a few offending meals from popular restaurants.
Clarification: Language has been added to indicate that no more than 22 grams (rather than calories, as was previously implied) of saturated fats each day are recommended as part of a 2,000-calories-a-day diet.
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