Fat is a major source of calories or energy. Fat improves the taste and odor of foods and gives a feeling of fullness. Fats form the structures in our bodies, including muscles, nerves, membranes and blood vessels and are essential for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K in the body. Although some fat in the diet is necessary, too much fat can lead to heart disease, obesity and other health problems. There are three kinds of fat: saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat. Fats in the diet may be of animal (saturated) or vegetable (unsaturated) origin. Saturated fats are usually solid. All animal fats, such as those in meat, poultry, and dairy products are saturated. Processed and fast foods are also saturated. Vegetable oils also can be saturated. Palm, palm kernel and coconut oils are saturated vegetable oils.
Saturated fats are the very unhealthy fats. They make the body produce more cholesterol, which may raise blood cholesterol levels. Excess saturated fat is related to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The amount of cholesterol found in foods is not as important as the amount of saturated fat. Of all the fats, saturated fat is the most potent determinant of blood cholesterol levels. Saturated fats stimulates the production of LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) and therefore increases blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. Saturated fats raise cholesterol levels and LDL-cholesterol levels more than dietary cholesterol itself.
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