Fats and Cholesterol

Preferred Fats. Not all fats are created equal. To keep your heart and blood vessels healthy, choose fats that are not saturated.

Unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) are found mostly in plant foods, such as nuts and olives.

Cutting Down on Fat and Cholesterol
The following simple steps can help keep dietary fat and cholesterol in check:

  • Choose lean cuts of meat. Look for descriptions such as loin, round, lean, choice, and select
  • Remove visible fat from meats and skin from poultry, preferably before cooking.
  • Choose fish and skinless poultry and lean meats.
  • Try to limit your portions of lean meat, fish, or poultry to 3 ounces per meal - about the size of a deck of cards. One half of a skinless, boneless chicken breast is about 3 ounces of meat.
  • Avoid fried foods.
  • Limit the number of eggs you eat to four per week.
  • Use a nonfat cooking spray on pans and cooking utensils to prevent sticking.
  • Select reduced-fat or fat-free dairy products, such as salad dressings, baked goods, luncheon meats, soups, and dairy products

They are usually liquid at room temperature, as opposed to saturated fats, which are usually solid at room temperature. Corn, cottonseed, sunflower, saffiower, and soybean oils are all polyunsaturated, whereas olive and canola oils are monounsaturated.

It is recommended that people with diabetes decrease saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of calories and eliminate trans fats. Select the rest of your fats from food with mono- or polyunsaturated fats. Omega-3 and omega-6 fats are found in fish oil and flaxseed and soybean oils. Tuna, bluefish, lake trout, and sardines are all high in omega-3 fats. These lower triglycerides and help protect your heart. Three servings per week are recommended. Choose margarine that has a liquid oil, such as olive oil or soybean oil, as its first ingredient rather than a partially hydrogenated oil or trans fat. Hydrogenated margarine has 0.6 grams of saturated fat per teaspoon and butter has 2.5 grams per teaspoon.

Trans fats are produced when liquid oil is made into a solid fat through a process called hydrogenation. Trans fats act like saturated fats and can raise your cholesterol level. Beginning in 2006, trans fat will be listed in product nutrition labels, making it easier to identify them. You can also find out which foods contain trans fats by reading the ingredient list on food labels. Look for phrases like hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil and avoid foods that have these ingredients. Trans fats show up in many processed snack foods, such as crackers and chips, and in processed baked goods, such as muffins, cakes, and cookies.
Fast-food items such as french fries may contain trans fats.

Martha M. Funnell, MS, RN, CDE
Michigan Diabetes Research and Training Center
University of Michigan Medical School
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Robert M. Anderson, EdD
Michigan Diabetes Research and Training Center
University of Michigan Medical School
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Shereen Arent, JD
National Director of Legal Advocacy
American Diabetes Association

American Diabetes Association Complete Guide to Diabetes

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