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Your Health

Here's the skinny on fats we eat

Tom Laue, Executive Editor

Here's the skinny on fats we eat

Do you know differences among trans fats, dietary fats, saturated fats, unsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, omega-fatty acids, hydrogenated vegetable oil, fully hydrogenated fats, and partially hydrogenated fats or oils? Do you also know which are good or bad?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is deciding if trans fats are unsafe in any food. It believes they are. As this was printed, an FDA trans fats ban was pending. Meanwhile, let's look at all fats we eat. And remember your body needs some fat to stay healthy.

The nearby chart is divided into "good fats" and "bad fats" for reader convenience. But "bad fats" in moderation aren't necessarily harmful, and eating too many "good fats" can actually hurt us because all fats are calorie-rich. We don't want too many calories, either!

Overall, the FDA says outlawing trans fats will prevent 20,000 heart attacks and save 7,000 lives a year. Average per capita consumption fell from 4.6 grams in 2003 to just one gram in 2012. But it's still found in processed foods such as microwave popcorn, canned frosting, and coffee creamers. Some restaurants still cook with trans fats. 

You should soon be able to balance your intake of "good" and "bad" fats. Until it's second nature, keep handy the chart showing some fat sources from food. Food fat discussions involve ideal cholesterol levels. Remember: Talk to your doctor if you have questions.

'Good Fats' 'Bad Fats'
Fully/Completely Hydrogenated Partially Hydrogenated (fat or oil)
Cakes, cookies, chips, meat, dairy products
Monounsaturated (unsaturated type)
Olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, poultry, nuts, seeds
Saturated
Sausage, hot dogs, bacon, lard, butter, ribs
Polyunsaturated (unsaturated type)
Vegetable oils – corn, safflower, soy, cottonseed, nut oils
Trans Fats
Processed food, frozen pizza, margarine, crackers, canned frosting, frozen pies, refrigerated dough products
Omega-Fatty Acids
Salmon, mackerel, herring, ground flaxseed, flax oil, walnuts
Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
Soybeans, fish and corn oils
Dietary
Fat from plants, animals, body fat from excess calories