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Fats

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Updated February 25, 2013

Definition:

Fats, along with protein and carbohydrates, are a source of food energy (calories). They are a combination of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids (see below).

Fats are often considered unhealthy, but they are essential to our bodies. Fatty acids are important to brain development and also help with blood clotting and controlling inflammation. Fats keep our skin and hair healthy. They help the body absorb certain vitamins and move them through the blood.

Saturated fats, found in animal products such as whole milk and meats as well as coconut and palm oils, should be a limited part of your family's diet. They can cause high levels of "bad" (LDL) cholesterol.

Unsaturated fats, such as fish and most vegetable oils, are healthier sources of fat, but still have a lot of calories.

Trans fats or trans fatty acids form when vegetable oils harden (if they don't harden completely, the fats are called partially hydrogenated). These can also raise "bad" cholesterol levels and lower "good" (HDL) cholesterol levels. Trans fats are found in fried and processed foods, margarine, and commercial baked goods. Check labels for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, and avoid them.

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Also Known As: Fat
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