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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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What are the different types of fat that a food can contain? How are they different?

Food may contain saturated fat, trans fat, or unsaturated fat. Fat is a major source of energy for the body and aids in the absorption of vitamins. Both animal and plant-derived food products contain fat. When eaten in moderation, fat is important for proper growth and maintenance of good health. As a food ingredient, fat provides taste, consistency, and stability and helps us feel full. In addition, parents should be aware that fats are an especially important source of calories and nutrients for infants and toddlers (up to 2 years of age), who have the highest energy needs per body weight of any age group.

Saturated and trans fats raise LDL (or "bad") cholesterol levels in the blood, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease. Dietary cholesterol also contributes to heart disease. Unsaturated fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, do not raise LDL cholesterol and are beneficial when consumed in moderation. Therefore, it is advisable to choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol as part of a healthful diet.

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