Q&A with Dr. Agatston

Ban Trans Fats?

I keep hearing about trans fats in the news. Is there a difference between these and other fats?
–Caroline B., Baton Rouge, LA

Yes, I can't emphasize enough that it is the type of fat, not total fat intake, that can pose a threat to your health. Trans fats are the worst offenders. Also known as trans-fatty acids, these unhealthy fats are typically found in margarines, shortening, and deep-fried foods. They may also be found in refined carbohydrates, including many commercially baked breads and snacks, such as cookies and crackers. 

Trans fats are partially hydrogenated oils that were created to increase the shelf life of foods. These harmful fats raise LDL ("bad") cholesterol and lower HDL ("good") cholesterol, a combination that greatly increases the risk for heart disease.

It's best to limit your consumption of trans fats and instead focus on eating good fats, like the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated kinds. These fats are actually beneficial to your health, particularly when they replace trans fats in your diet. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats lower LDL cholesterol and have anti-inflammatory properties that may protect the lining of the coronary arteries, which in turn helps reduce the risk of heart disease. These good fats are found in many delicious and nutritious South Beach Diet–friendly foods, including extra-virgin olive and canola oils, cold-water fish, flaxseed, avocados, and nuts.

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