What types of fat can I eat on a low cholesterol diet?

The Difference Between FatsThere are two major types of fat: saturated fat and unsaturated fat.

  • Saturated fat raises blood cholesterol. To help decrease LDL, known as the bad cholesterol, substitute unsaturated fats for saturated fats.
  • Unsaturated fat can be divided into two types: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered healthier fats. This is because they don't raise blood cholesterol. They may even lower cholesterol when eaten as part of a diet that's low in saturated fat.


What Should I Know About Saturated Fat?

Saturated fat may raise blood cholesterol more than any other type of food, according to heart experts at the National Institutes of Health. The typical American gets about 2/3 of his or her saturated fat from animal sources. Do you eat whole-milk products, fatty meats, and poultry with skin? If so, you may be getting too much saturated fat. The same is true if you often eat sweets, such as candy bars and commercially prepared pastries. Treats like these may contain coconut oil, cocoa butter, palm kernel oil, or palm oil. Those butters and oils are vegetable fats that are highly saturated. You should limit the amounts of foods you eat that are high in saturated fat. You should limit saturated fat to no more than 7% of your daily calories. For details on how to do this, see How Much Fat Is in There?


What Should I Know About Unsaturated Fat?

Eating unsaturated fat does not raise your blood cholesterol. There are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

Monounsaturated fats include vegetable oils such as:


  • olive oil
  • canola oil
  • peanut oil

Polyunsaturated fats include vegetable oils such as:

  • safflower oil
  • sunflower oil
  • some oils from fish

When you are trying to control your cholesterol, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthier choices than saturated fat.


What Should I Know About Total Fat?

Total fat is important, too. Total fat is saturated fat plus monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. All fats are dense in calories. Each gram of fat, no matter which type, contains 9 calories. The same amount of protein or carbohydrate contains only 4 calories. So it's important to limit your total fat intake in order to control your weight. Remember, total fat should account for only 25% to 35% of your calories. For details on how to figure out the percentage of calories provided by fat, see How Much Fat Can I Have?