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We need a little fat in our diets for good health, and some fats are better for you than others. Fatty acids, the building blocks for fat, are divided into three chemical classes according to their hydrogen content: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Here?s a rundown.
Saturated Fatty Acids
Saturated fats are the main culprit in raising low- density lipoproteins (LDL, or ?bad? cholesterol). They are found primarily in meats and dairy products. Many of these foods also contain cholesterol. Cutting down on saturated fat means going easy on beef, veal, lamb, pork, beef and poultry fat, butter, cream, whole milk, and cheeses as well as other dairy products made from whole milk. Saturated fatty acids are also found in plant-based products, including palm and coconut oils and cocoa butter. The American Heart Association recommends that you limit your saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of total calories each day. The less the better. This is a ?bad? fat.
These are typically found in the liquid oils that come from vegetables. Common sources include sesame, sunflower, and safflower oils; sunflower seeds; and corn and soybeans and their oils. Only the polyunsaturated fats are considered ?essential,? meaning they cannot be manufactured by the body. Like minerals and vitamins, they must be ingested as food. If we don?t eat enough, then we won?t get enough. And that would be unfortunate, for these compounds?principally linoleic acid and linolenic acid? are vital to the maintenance of cell membranes and to the manufacture of potent chemical messengers that regulate everything from blood pressure to the firing of nerves.