Saturated fats: Found in red meat and dairy products, saturated fats raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. Avoid them by staying away from meats, whole milk products, butter, cream, and other dairy products that are not labeled “nonfat” or “fat-free.”
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs): These are found in vegetable oils such as corn oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil. Although PUFAs lower cholesterol levels in most studies, the relationship between PUFAs and cardiovascular disease and cancer remains unclear. The same is not true with regard to fish oil and olive oil (which contains monounsaturated fat), both of which are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and may be associated with reduced risk of certain cancers. A more healthful alternative to PUFAs are monounsaturated fats, which are found in abundance in olive oil.
Trans fatty acids (TFAs): TFAs are found in processed foods containing partially hydrogenated oils, including many commercial snack foods, “vegetable shortenings,” and margarines. Partially hydrogenated oils are also used in deep-frying, so many fast foods, such as French fries, contain large amounts of TFAs. TFA consumption greatly increases the risk of heart attack. Avoid TFAs by eating as many whole, unrefined foods as possible.
Highly processed foods: Be aware that highly processed low-fat or fat-free products often have as many or more calories as the full-fat versions and should be avoided. Simply because a food is low-fat or fat-free, doesn’t mean that unlimited quantities can be consumed. An excess of calories—whether from fat-free or high-fat foods—will be converted to body fat, regardless of whether those calories come from fat or from sugar (carbohydrate).
Bread, cereal, rice, and pasta to avoid:
- Biscuits and muffins
- Doughnuts, pastries, and croissants
- Taco shells
- Popcorn with oil
Dairy products to avoid:
Fats, oils, and sweets to avoid:
- Mayonnaise and salad dressings that aren’t low in fat
- All oils (however, olive oil and fish oil are healthful)
- Most cakes and pies
- Candy bars
- Granola bars
- Ice cream
Note: Be aware that many “fat-free” or “reduced fat” foods contain high amounts of sugar (such as high fructose corn syrup) which is converted by the body into fat.
Protein (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, and beans) to avoid:
Vegetables and Fruits to avoid: