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By Jo-Anne M. Rizzotto, M.Ed, R.D., L.D.N., C.D.E.

Created: 09/23/2009
Last Updated: 07/19/2012

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Q: I love fried foods—fried chicken, french fries and such. Do I have to cut them out completely to protect myself from heart disease?

Take heart—the old adage, "everything in moderation," still holds true. You can enjoy your favorite savory delights, but be sure to take note of the kind of fat the food is prepared with.

French fries, fried chicken, donuts, cookies, chips and other snack foods usually contain partially hydrogenated oils, or trans fats, along with saturated fat. In fact, nearly all fried or baked goods contain some trans fats. Trans fats tend to raise total cholesterol and LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, and lower HDL ("good") cholesterol levels, all of which contribute to an increased risk for heart disease. One way to ensure heart healthy eating is to eliminate trans fats as much as possible from your diet. Take advantage of food companies and restaurants that are beginning to tout their use of "trans-fat-free" products and cooking methods. Or look for the next best things to your favorite foods, such as baked french fries or breaded chicken. Note of caution: Trans-fat-free does not mean calorie free! Maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a diet high in fiber and low in trans and saturated fats, and getting regular physical activity is the best way to ensure heart health.