Understanding cholesterol and fats is vitally important in lowering cholesterol.
Not all fats are bad.
In fact, some fats actually improve your cholesterol levels.
CLICK HERE for a Summary Table of Foods Sources associated with the 4 Basic Fat Types and its Affect on Cholesterol.
TIP: The American Heart Association recommends that consumers shop for margarine with no more than 2 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon and with liquid vegetable oil as the first ingredient.
Monounsaturated fats are considered "good fats" because they lower bad LDL cholesterol and raise good HDL cholesterol. Common sources of monounsaturated fats include olive, canola, and peanut oil. Avocados and most nuts are high in monounsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated fats can be divided into two categories:
Omega-3 fats are found in both plant and marine foods and have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease. Food sources include soy, canola oil, flax seed, pumpkin seed, and walnut. Marine sources include oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines.
Omega-6 fats are found primarily in plant oils such as corn, cottonseed, and safflower.
Both omega-3 and omega-6 are considered essential fatty acids because you cannot make them in your body and must get them from your food.
Until relatively recently the foods we have eaten contained an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of about 2:1. However, over the last 50 years in North America, the ratio has changed to from 2:1 to 10-20:1 because our diet now includes huge amounts of oils that are extracted from plants and used for cooking or in prepared foods. These oils (such as corn oil, safflower oil, cottonseed oil) are primarily omega-6s. We have decreased our intake of omega-3's, found primarily in whole grains, beans, seeds, and seafood.
Eating too much omega-6 and too little omega-3 may be associated with:
Clots and constriction of arteries that increases the risk for heart attacks
Increased swelling that worsen arthritis
Aggravation of psoriasis
Blocking a person's ability to respond to insulin, causing high insulin and blood sugar levels and obesity
Increased hormone levels of insulin like growth factor-1 that causes certain cancers.
To get your ratio on omega-6s to omega-3s back to a more healthful 2:1, eat seafood, whole grains, beans and other seeds, and reduce your intake of foods made with or cooked in vegetable oils.
Saturated fats come mainly from animal fats and whole fat dairy. While saturated fats tend to raise bad LDL and raise good HDL, the net effect is negative. Therefore it is important to limit saturated fats by eating only
low fat dairy products.
Trans fats are also considered a "bad fat" and is even worse for your cholesterol levels than saturated fats because they raise bad LDL and lower good HDL. It is important to elimate trans fats as much as possible from your diet.