So long, trans fat. The Food and Drug Administration has decided to ban this artery-clogging substance from foods, calling it unsafe for consumption and a major public health concern. Proven to contribute to diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease, trans fat has been under fire for more than a decade, and many food manufacturers and restaurants have already ousted it. But a government-ordered phaseout is another huge step in a healthier direction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that further decreasing the amount of trans fat Americans consume can prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths every year.
Even though the ban's been set in motion, it'll take years before trans fat goes away completely. So it's up to you to know where it is, as well as how to distinguish it from other fat types. Trans is just one of many dietary fats, which vary significantly in how bad – or how good – they are for the body. While some kinds, like trans fat, are basically heart-harming garbage, other fats are very healthy, even necessary for the body to function properly – as long as you don't overindulge. But it isn't easy to differentiate between the many different types of fat. Here's your guide.
Your body needs fat for energy and to be able to absorb key vitamins and nutrients from food. Unsaturated fats provide those perks without the dangerous downsides of saturated fats. The first type of unsaturated fats, monounsaturated, are found in many plant-based foods, such as avocados, nuts, and seeds, as well as olive, sesame, canola, and sunflower oils. Studies show that monounsaturated fats improve cholesterol levels to lower heart-disease risk and help keep blood sugar in check, which lessens your likelihood of type 2 diabetes.
But here's the thing: Monounsaturated fats are still fat, meaning they pack in the calories – about 9 per gram. So although they're cardio-protective, you don't want to overdo it or you'll be eating far too much fat. There isn't a specific recommendation for how much monounsaturated fat to consume, but current guidelines say that your total daily fat intake should be 20 to 35 percent of total calories – 44 to 78 grams based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet – and most of that should be unsaturated.
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