Exposing the myths—and truths—about saturated fat.

And, of course, despite a widespread trend to eliminate trans fats from our food supply, many packaged snacks still contain these man-made fats that act like saturated fats. And trans fats, or “partially hydrogenated” fats, are the unhealthiest of all: they increase (“bad”) LDL and decrease (“good”) HDL.

Bottom Line: Saturated fats are not all created equal. Foods contain a variety of saturated fats, and a “neutral” one won’t negate the impact of a “bad” one. To minimize intake of “bad” saturated fats, choose lean sources of protein and low-fat or nonfat dairy products. Read labels on packaged foods, such as cookies, crackers and microwave popcorn, to avoid palm and coconut oils and trans fats. (While coconut oil may be marginally better than palm, you’re still better off avoiding both.)

“Saturated fats are the worst offenders in our diets.”

As more research uncovers the role diet plays in cardiovascular disease, it’s becoming obvious that fats aren’t the only villains in the picture. Increasingly, scientists are recognizing that you should also watch out for some carbohydrates—specifically, sugars and refined grains. “I believe that a diet containing moderate amounts of saturated fat is OK, and possibly better, than a low-saturated-fat diet that is rich in sugars and refined carbohydrates,” says Ronald Krauss, M.D., director of atherosclerosis research at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute and a past chair of the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee. “Although saturated fats raise [“bad”] LDL cholesterol, sugars decrease [“good”] HDL cholesterol and raise triglycerides [another harmful fat in the blood],” he explains. Those findings are confirmed by studies conducted at Harvard in more than 80,000 women.

Bottom Line: Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and sugary sweets, may be just as bad for your heart and arteries as cream and butter—one more reason to limit them.

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