While we don’t have all the answers, it’s best to take a prudent course: be familiar with the cholesterol and saturated-fat content of foods and apply this knowledge to your food choices.
Fats are a group of various highly concentrated substances that don’t mix with water. Dietary fats are carriers for fat-soluble vitamins. If there were no fat in the diet, it could eventually lead to a vitamin deficiency. Some fats are crucial for maintaining the structure of each cell in your body and producing hormones. While fats are essential to good nutrition, they are beneficial only when you consume certain types in limited amounts.
Several fats fall into a group of oily substances, some of which bear such familiar names as cholesterol, saturated and unsaturated fat, and triglycerides. There are three kinds of dietary fat, all of which affect your health differently:
Saturated Fat: raises your cholesterol level. Butter, lard, and meat drippings contain mostly saturated fats. Most of these saturated fats, which remain solid at room temperature, come from animal sources. The only exceptions are such tropical plant oils as coconut oil and palm kernel oil, which are liquid at room temperature.
Monounsaturated fat: gets it name from its molecular structure. It contains two fewer hydrogen atoms than saturated fat and, by virtue of being one step removed from saturated status; monounsaturated fat merits a place on the recommended list. Olive oil and canola oil are excellent sources.
Polyunsaturated fat: has even less hydrogen than monounsaturated fat and helps lower cholesterol in the bloodstream. Polyunsaturated fat remains liquid at room temperature. Good sources include safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, and soybean oil.
There are two types of polyunsaturated fats: omega-6 oils, which is common in safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oil and omega-3 oils, is found in cold water sea fish, such as mackerel and salmon.