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8 Subtle Signs You’re Eating too Much Bad Fat

Too much bad fat—saturated and trans—can lead to more than weight gain. But how much is too much? If any of the following signs sound familiar, it might be time to change your diet.


You keep having “senior moments”

If you struggle to remember names, dates, or what you ate for breakfast this morning, you might want to take a look at your diet. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts analyzed the diets of 6,000 women over the age of 65 and found that those who consumed the highest amount of saturated fat had worse overall memory and cognition over four years of testing. Swap out saturated fat-heavy butter and red meat for olive oil and fish, rich in “good” mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, known to help protect against mental decline. These are signs you need to eat more good fats.


Nutrition labels? Who reads those?

Trans fat, the worst type of dietary fat, is the sneakiest because it can hide in plain sight if you don’t know what to look for; and if you throw items in your shopping cart without glancing at the labels, you could ingest way too much. “People might be eating a lot of trans fat without even realizing it, depending on which processed foods they buy,” says Georgia Giannopoulos, RD-AP, CDN, CNSC, a senior dietitian at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell in New York City. Trans fat is often listed on the ingredient list as “partially hydrogenated oil.” It wreaks havoc on your body by increasing the amount of bad LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and reducing the amount of good HDL cholesterol. It also triggers inflammation, which has been linked to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Foods commonly containing trans fat include packaged items like cookies, crackers, chips, doughnuts, some frozen meals, pie crust, stick margarine, and coffee creamer.

iStock/Eva Katalin Kondoros

You think all fats are equal

“Not knowing what types of fats are healthier than others is a big reason people might eat too much of the bad,” says Giannopoulos. Saturated fat, the bad kind, is found in red meat, whole milk, cheese, butter, and poultry with the skin on. It’s also found in some oils that people mistake for super-healthy, such as coconut. “Olive oil, sunflower oil, and flaxseed oil are better for you,” she says.


You’re constantly popping antacids

If you take your morning coffee with a side of Tums, it could be a sign you’re eating too much fat. Saturated fat takes longer to digest, so when you eat a fatty meal, indigestion and heartburn can bubble up the next day when excess stomach acid splashes back into your esophagus. Here are natural remedies for heartburn relief.

iStock/Bradley Hebdon

You’re a fried food junkie

French fries and chicken wings might be treats for your tastebuds, but not for the rest of your body. Deep fried foods are packed with trans fat, which throw your good and bad cholesterol levels out of whack and can even make you insulin resistant, increasing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And it doesn’t take long for your health to take a hit: Harvard researchers found that for every 2 percent of calories from trans fat daily, the risk of heart disease rises by 23 percent.


You have high cholesterol

If your cholesterol levels are higher than your doc would like, don’t assume only your genetics are to blame. Saturated fat drives up levels of bad cholesterol in your blood, which can increase your chance of developing heart disease. If your cholesterol is high, be mindful of how much red meat, eggs, and fatty dairy you consume; and follow the American Heart Association’s recommendation of no more than 11 to 13 grams of saturated fat a day for a 2,000 calorie diet. These are the worst eating habits for cholesterol.


You cook everything in butter

If you try to mimic your favorite TV chef in your own kitchen, you’ll likely find butter makes a frequent appearance. But beware—just two tablespoons of butter contains 23 grams of fat, almost all of it unhealthy saturated fat. Leave the butter for your toast and use olive oil, which is filled with healthy monounsaturated fat, for cooking.


Your favorite pants feel snugger and snugger

Consuming too much of anything unhealthy makes weight gain more likely, but especially when it comes to saturated fat. A small Swedish study found that participants who ate a large amount of saturated fat (in the form of muffins) over the course of seven weeks gained more belly fat than those who ate muffins made with polyunsaturated fat. Here’s how to lose belly fat without exercising.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest