A Good Kind of Fat

Polyunsaturated fats can have a beneficial effect on your heart when eaten in moderation and when used to replace saturated fat and trans fat in your diet.

There are several different kinds of fat — saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fat. And the good news is they aren’t all bad for you. For instance, polyunsaturated fats can have a beneficial effect on your heart when eaten in moderation and when used to replace saturated fat and trans fat in your diet.

Oils that contain polyunsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature but start to turn solid when chilled. Olive oil is an example of a type of oil that contains polyunsaturated fats. (Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature.)

Polyunsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood. That can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. They also provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your body’s cells. Oils rich in polyunsaturated fats also contain vitamin E, an antioxidant vitamin most Americans need more of.

Your body needs some fats that it can’t produce itself — such as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. You must get these essential fats through food. Oils rich in polyunsaturated fats provide these. Both are important for many functions in the body.

Most foods contain a combination of fats. Good sources of polyunsaturated fat include:

  • canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil
  • fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout
  • walnuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, tofu and other forms of soybeans

All fats provide nine calories per gram, so there’s no caloric benefit from eating one rather than another. But polyunsaturated fats (and monounsaturated fats) offer health benefits that saturated or trans fats don’t (although they should still be eaten in moderation). Saturated and trans fats — the bad fats — can cause problems.

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