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Fats That Fight Cholesterol

Fat Can be a Friend or Foe
  -- By Nicole Nichols, Fitness Instructor & Health Educator
If you're reading this, your doctor has probably told you that your cholesterol levels are too high. Maybe she put you on a medication to help lower cholesterol, or simply told you to consume less cholesterol-containing foods. No matter what you are doing to manage your high cholesterol, the big picture of "cholesterol" is pretty complex.

Since your body makes about 80% of its cholesterol, the other 20% comes from the foods you eat. Dietary cholesterol is only found in foods of animal origin, such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. All individuals (and especially people with high cholesterol levels) should limit their intake of dietary cholesterol to less than 300 milligrams daily. But as you'll soon learn, limiting your dietary cholesterol intake is only a small part of a cholesterol-lowering diet. The types of fat you eat can have a much larger affect on your cholesterol levels.

After the low-fat and fat-free craze of the nineties, many people still fear fat or just don't understand it. It may come as a surprise that fat is very valuable to your health. Some kinds are good for you, while others are not.

When you’re making food choices, the types of fats you choose are just as (if not more) important than the amount of cholesterol the food contains.

These heart-healthy fats are part of a cholesterol-lowering diet: Now that you know which fats to include as part of your cholesterol-lowering plan, it's time to learn about the types of fats that are bad for your health.

To lower your cholesterol, avoid these unhealthy fats: Although some fats (monounsaturated, Omega-3's) are healthier than others (saturated and trans fats), it's important to remember that fats are still high in calories. Consuming too many—even the healthy ones—can result in weight gain. So limit your total fat intake to less than 30% of your total calories each day. This is about 45-65 grams each day (more or less depending on your calorie needs).

Of course, there is more to a cholesterol-lowering plan than eating good fats and avoiding bad ones. Exercise, weight loss, a healthy diet and not smoking also play important roles.