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Just Say No to Saturated and Trans Fats

Not all fats are created equal. There are in fact good fats and bad fats. In terms of weight loss and other health issues, though, you need to cut down on the bad kinds: saturated and trans fat.

Some research points to greater storage of body fat from saturated fat intake, particularly for sedentary people, so overloading makes it easier to gain weight. Both fats raise blood cholesterol and are linked to heart disease, inflammation, and perhaps cancer. Of the two, trans fats are perhaps even more threatening, since they not only raise blood cholesterol, but also lower HDL levels, your good cholesterol, which helps protect against heart attacks.

When it comes to saturated and trans fats, how much is too much? Limit your saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of total calories. So if you consume 1,500 daily calories, limit saturated fat to 15 g; 1,600 daily calories, limit saturated fat to 16 grams, and so on. Saturated fats are found in the following popular foods: chicken skin, whole fat dairy (butter, regular cheese, whole and 2 percent milk, regular ice cream, sour cream, and cream cheese) and fatty cuts of meat like hamburgers. Those 16 grams can quickly add up too: a slice of cheese may have up to 6 grams and only a half cup of ice cream can pack 10 grams.

Limit trans to 1 percent of calories. That's 1.5 g on a 1500 cal diet, 1.7 g on a 1700 cal diet, and so forth. Trans fat is mainly found in foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, such as cookies, pie crusts, chips, and other snack foods, so try to limit your intake of these or choose trans fat-free versions. But be careful. While trans fats are now listed on food labels, they may not accurately reflect the food's true amount. Some labels may report "0 g trans," but The Food and Drug administration allows manufacturers to claim 0 g trans if the product has up to 0.49 g. And don't forget to check for extra saturated fat too, as manufacturers may add them to maintain the original texture of the food.

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