Skip Navigation

Servings and Choices

Author(s): Nancy Moreno, PhD, and Paula Cutler, BS.


The properties of fats are related to their chemical make-up. While all fats yield the same amount of Calories (nine per gram), some fats are much healthier than others. As a general rule, it is best to avoid fats that are solid at room temperature. Examples include lard, butter, vegetable shortening and margarine. Better choices are liquid vegetable oils, such as olive peanut, canola, soybean and corn oils. These mono- and polyunsaturated vegetable oils can help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the body, while raising levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a wax-like substance made in the liver. Low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) carry cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body. When too much LDL cholesterol is present in the blood, it can end up as deposits on the walls of arteries in the heart. Because it contributes to blockage of arteries, LDL often is referred to as “bad” cholesterol. High density lipoproteins (HDLs) carry cholesterol from the blood back to the liver, which processes the cholesterol for elimination from the body. Since HDL makes it less likely that excess cholesterol in will build up inside arteries, HDL cholesterol sometimes is called "good" cholesterol.

Students can investigate the relative amounts of fats in different foods by placing equal sized portions on brown paper over night and comparing the sizes of the “grease” spots left on the paper by each food. 

Funded by the following grant(s)

National Space Biomedical Research Institute

National Space Biomedical Research Institute

This work was supported by National Space Biomedical Research Institute through NASA cooperative agreement NCC 9-58.