Although it may sound counter-intuitive, not all fats are created equal, especially when it comes to lipids, or fats, such as cholesterol and triglycerides, in your bloodstream. Some dietary fats tend to improve lipid levels, whereas others tend to worsen them. For this reason, medical professionals often characterize fats as either “good” or “bad.” Increasing your intake of good fats can improve blood cholesterol. The reverse is obviously true for bad fats.
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Bad fats, like saturated fat, increase low-density lipoproteins, also known as LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol can accumulate along your arterial walls, narrowing blood vessels and reducing blood flow. This increases your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. To reduce these risks, the American Heart Association recommends limiting your intake of saturated fat to no more than 7 percent of your daily caloric intake. Saturated fats are predominantly found in animal-based products, such as dairy, poultry, pork and some plant-based oils.
Good fats, on the other hand, increase high-density lipoproteins, or HDL cholesterol, notes the Harvard School of Public Health. HDL cholesterol acts as a scavenger, removing excess LDL cholesterol from blood. The decrease in LDL cholesterol reduces your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Both monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat are “good” fats, so their inclusion in your diet can improve heart health. However, there are still limits when it comes to unsaturated fats. According to the American Heart Association, you still need to limit your total fat intake to anywhere from 25 to 35 percent of your calories each day. Unsaturated fats are found mostly in fish, nuts, avocados, soy and vegetable oils.
Besides saturated fat and unsaturated fat, you should also pay close attention to your intake of trans fat. This form of fat has a significant impact on low-density lipoproteins. If at all possible, eliminate this fat from your diet. Otherwise, limit to no more than 1 percent of your calories each day.
Since a gram of fat is equivalent to 9 calories, you can use a simple equation to determine your recommended daily allowance of fats. This equation looks something like this: (caloric intake x percentage) / 9 = fat grams. For example, if your daily caloric intake is 2,200 calories, your total fat allowance is 61 grams to 85 grams. The majority of your intake should come from unsaturated fats, limiting saturated fat to no more than 17 grams and trans fat to no more than 2 grams.