Dietary Fats

There are two important aspects to the fat in our diets. One is the quantity of fat and the other is the quality of the fat. As you will see, small amounts of some fats are actually beneficial. The chart below shows how some of the fats are categorized.

  • Monounsaturated Fats come from plant sources. They are usually liquid at room temperature. Overall, these fats tend to lower total cholesterol and LDL in the blood. They help to maintain or slightly raise HDL.
  • Polyunsaturated Fats are also from plant sources. They are usually liquid at room temperature. Their overall effect is to lower total cholesterol and LDL in the blood. They may also slightly lower HDL.
  • Dietary Cholesterol is present in ALL foods of animal origin such as meat, fish, poultry, egg yolks and high fat dairy products. There is no cholesterol in vegetables, fruits, nuts or grains. Dietary cholesterol has less effect on raising and lowering blood cholesterol than the saturated fat does.
  • Saturated Fats are found in foods of animal origin (meat, fish, poultry and high fat dairy products). They are also present in palm oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and hydrogenated vegetable oils. They are usually solid at room temperature. Saturated fats raise total blood cholesterol, particularly LDL.
  • Hydrogenated Fats are liquid oils processed to a solid form, such as vegetable shortening. They give processed foods a longer shelf life. Although they are made from vegetable oil, the process results in the formation of trans fatty acids that are thought to be as harmful as animal fats. Foods made with fully hydrogenated fats should be avoided.
  • Partially Hydrogenated Fats are liquid oils processed to a somewhat solid form. Margarines and many processed foods such as crackers, cookies and convenience mixes are made with partially hydrogenated oils. Unfortunately, the degree of hydrogenation is unknown. Foods containing partially hydrogenated fats should be limited.




Monounsaturated Fatscanola oil
olive oil
Polyunsaturated Fatssafflower oil
sunflower oil
corn oil
soybean oil
Saturated Fatsall animal fats
butter fat
palm and palm kernel oil
coconut oil
cocoa butter (chocolate)
hydrogenated oil
partially hydrogenated oil

How a change in diet can help lower blood cholesterol

A diet high in total fat and saturated fat can contribute to high levels of cholesterol in your blood. Reducing total fat in your diet will help lower your blood cholesterol. Replacing the saturated fat with moderate amounts of unsaturated fat can lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) and may slightly raise good cholesterol (HDL) levels.

Even if you are taking cholesterol-lowering medications, following a low fat diet is still an important part of your total treatment.


Risk factors for heart disease

Fats in Blood

Dietary Fats

Food Guide Pyramid