Fat is a nutrient that is needed in small quantities in the body. It plays a role in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, K), aids in the manufacturing of hormones, helps keep the body warm and adds cushioning to protect the body from being damaged from a simple fall.

Fat is also needed for stored energy. It provides 9 calories per gram, and therefore has more calories than carbohydrates and protein.

There are different types of fats, which include: saturated fats, trans fatty acids, cholesterol, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids.

1. Trans fatty acids are a byproduct of the hydrogenation of oils. This process makes the fat more solid, saturated and more resistant to rancidity. Trans fatty acids raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL. Avoiding foods with trans fatty acids is ideal. Foods high in trans fatty acids include baked goods and processed snacks (muffins, pastries, cookies, chips, cakes), stick margarines and shortening.

2. Monounsaturated fats are "good” fats as they help lower total cholesterol. Food sources include olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, almonds, pecans, peanut butter, avocado and black olives.

3. Polyunsaturated fats (omega-6 fatty acids) may also help lower cholesterol levels. Sources include margarine, mayonnaise, walnuts, oils (corn, safflower, and soybean), salad dressing and pumpkin seeds.

4. Saturated fats may increase cholesterol levels. Foods that contain saturated fat include animal proteins (beef, hot dogs, sausage, bacon and poultry with skin), high fat dairy products (whole milk, cheese, butter), lard, cream sauces, palm oil, coconut and coconut oil.

5. Cholesterol is made in the body and also obtained from the foods you eat. Dietary cholesterol may raise blood cholesterol levels, so your intake should be less than 200 mg per day. Sources of cholesterol include high-fat animal proteins, high-fat dairy products, egg yolk, liver and other organ meat, and shell fish.

6. Omega-3 fatty acids have shown to help lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels and reduce the risk for heart disease. Fish and fish oils, such as wild salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines, are the best sources of these fats, as well as flaxseeds, walnuts and canola oil. The recommended intake is 1 to 2 grams per day.