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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diet and Nutrition > Unsaturated Fat
      Category : Health Centers > Food, Nutrition, and Metabolism

Unsaturated Fat

Alternate Names : Monounsaturated Fat, Polyunsaturated Fat, Unsaturated Fatty Acids

Overview & Description | Functions and Sources

Fat is needed by the body in small amounts for important functions. Some dietary fats are healthier than others. Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats helps lower blood cholesterol levels. Most unsaturated fats come from plant sources. These types of fats are a good source of essential fatty acids. Like all types of fats, they should be eaten in moderation.


The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends a total fat intake of between 25% and 35% of total daily calories from fat. Up to 20% of total daily calories should be from monounsaturated fat and up to 10% from polyunsaturated fat. The remaining 7% can come from saturated fats.

Here are some diet tips for a healthy heart.

  • Choose mayonnaise and salad dressings that contain no more than 1 gram of saturated fat per tablespoon.
  • Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Eat fewer processed snacks and sweets, including crackers, cookies, and pastries. These contain partially hydrogenated oils, which means that trans fats are present.
  • Eat more fish. Good choices include fatty fish such as salmon, lake trout, herring, sardines, mackerel, and albacore tuna. These offer heart health protection. The American Heart Association recommends eating a 6-ounce serving of fish twice a week. Grill or bake to avoid adding extra fat and calories.
  • Eat no more than 6 ounces of lean meat or skinless poultry each day. Loin and round cuts of meat have less fat. Trim visible fat from meats before cooking. Broil, bake, roast, poach, steam, saute, stir-fry, or microwave to reduce the amount of fat.
  • Follow the American Heart Association guidelines for margarine. It should have no more than 2 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. Liquid vegetable oil should be the first ingredient. Use liquid or tub margarines rather than stick margarine. The stick form is higher in saturated fat and trans fats.
  • Incorporate more breads, cereals, grains, pasta, and dried beans into meals.
  • Limit fats and oils to a total of no more than five to eight servings a day. This amount may be lower if weight loss is needed. Typical serving sizes are 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil or margarine or 2 teaspoons of diet margarine. A serving is also 2 teaspoons of mayonnaise or 3 teaspoons of nuts.
  • Use unsaturated oils, margarines, and spreads in place of saturated fat products, such as butter or hydrogenated shortening. Check labels on oils and margarines for amounts of saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats.


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    Unsaturated Fat: Functions and Sources

    Author: Sandy Keefe, RN, MSN
    Reviewer: Susan Harrow Rago, RD, MS
    Date Reviewed: 06/07/01

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