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All fats, from butter and shortening to oils, consist of fatty acids, which fall into three categories: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated. While these fats contain a mix of these acids, they are classified by the one with the highest content percentage. For instance, olive oil is predominantly made of monounsaturated fatty acids.

The impact of fats on your health varies in cooking and baking. Opt for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like olive and canola oils over saturated fats (butter and lard) to minimize the risk of heart disease.

Fast Facts About Each Type of Fats:

1. Monounsaturated Fats:
– Liquid at room temperature, becoming semi-solid in the refrigerator.
– Substituting them for saturated fats can improve blood cholesterol levels.
– Examples: Olive oil, peanut oil.

2. Polyunsaturated Fats:
– Always liquid, even when refrigerated.
– Help improve blood cholesterol levels when replacing saturated fats.
– Omega-3 fatty acids in this category lower triglyceride levels and provide heart health benefits.
– Examples: Canola oil, sunflower oil, walnut oil.

3. Saturated Fats:
– Solid at room temperature.
– Linked to elevated cholesterol levels and increased heart disease risk.
– Limit use of: Butter, lard, palm oil, coconut oil.

4. Hydrogenated Fats:
– Solid at room temperature.
– The hydrogenation process turns liquid oils into solid fats.
– High consumption linked to increased heart disease risk.
– Examples: Shortening, premade pie crusts.

5. Trans Fats:
– Formed through an industrial process, also found in some meat and dairy.
– Raise bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower good cholesterol (HDL).
– FDA restricts their addition to foods due to health risks.

Healthy Fats to Keep On Hand:
Olive Oil:
– High in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants (polyphenols).
– Ideal for roasting, sautéing, and making salad dressings.

Canola Oil:
– Neutral flavor with a high smoke point, perfect for baking and sautéing.
– Versatile for sautéing, roasting, baking, and salad dressings.

Walnut Oil:
– Rich, nutty flavor with heart-healthy omega-3s.
– Best for salad dressings or to impart a light walnut flavor to baked goods.