Facts about polyunsaturated fats
Polyunsaturated fat is a type of dietary fat. It is one of the healthy fats, along with monounsaturated fat.
Polyunsaturated fat is found in plant and animal foods, such as salmon, vegetable oils, and some nuts and seeds. Eating moderate amounts of polyunsaturated (and monounsaturated) fat in place of saturated and trans fats can benefit your health.
Polyunsaturated fat is different than saturated fat and trans fat. These unhealthy fats can increase your risk for heart disease and other health problems.
Polyunsaturated fatty acid; PUFA; Cholesterol - polyunsaturated fat; Atherosclerosis - polyunsaturated fat; Hardening of the arteries - polyunsaturated fat; Hyperlipidemia - polyunsaturated fat; Hypercholesterolemia - polyunsaturated fat; Coronary artery disease - polyunsaturated fat; Heart disease - polyunsaturated fat; Peripheral artery disease - polyunsaturated fat; PAD - polyunsaturated fat; Stroke - polyunsaturated fat; CAD - polyunsaturated fat; Heart healthy diet - polyunsaturated fat
How Polyunsaturated Fats Affect Your Health
Polyunsaturated fats can help lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol. Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance that can cause clogged or blocked arteries (blood vessels). Having low LDL cholesterol reduces your risk for heart disease.
Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fats. These are essential fatty acids that the body needs for brain function and cell growth. Our bodies DO NOT make essential fatty acids, so you can only get them from food.
Omega-3 fatty acids are good for your heart in several ways. They help:
Omega-6 fatty acids may help:
How Much Should you eat?
Your body needs some fat for energy and other functions. Polyunsaturated fats are a healthy choice. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends getting no more than 10% of your total daily calories from saturated fat (found in red meat, butter, cheese, and whole-fat dairy products) and trans fats (found in processed foods). Keep total fat consumption to no more than 25% to 30% of your daily calories. This includes monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Eating healthier fats can lead to certain health benefits. But eating too much fat can lead to weight gain. All fats contain 9 calories per gram. This is more than twice the amount of calories found in carbohydrates and protein.
It is not enough to add foods high in unsaturated fats to a diet filled with unhealthy foods and fats. Instead, replace saturated or trans fats with healthier fats. Overall, eliminating saturated fats is twice as effective in lowering blood cholesterol levels as increasing polyunsaturated fats.
Reading Nutrition Labels
All packaged foods have nutrition labels on them that include fat content. Reading food labels can help you keep track of how much fat you eat a day.
Making Healthy Food Choices
Most foods have a combination of all types of fats. Some have higher amounts of healthy fats than others. Foods and oils with higher amounts of polyunsaturated fats include:
To get the health benefits, you need to replace unhealthy fats with healthy fats.
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Jensen MD, Ryan DH, Apovian CM, et al. 2013 AHA/ACC/TOS guideline for the management of overweight and obesity in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines and The Obesity society. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;63(25 Pt B):2985-3023. PMID: 24239920 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24239920.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 - 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf. Updated December 2015. Accessed July 2018.
Review Date: 4/23/2018
Reviewed By: Emily Wax, RD, The Brooklyn Hospital Center, Brooklyn, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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