Previously we all believed saturated fats were bad for you, and your heart. Now some new work finds that while they still aren’t any picnic, these fats may not be so bad for heart health after all. What’s more, replacing these fats with other unhealthy options – highly refined carbs – might actually increase your danger of heart disease.
Eating more fruits, veggies and whole grains has an incredible impact on heart health. Reducing salt (one of the main culprits for encouraging high blood pressure) is also beneficial for keeping your heart healthy and strong. This new research shows reducing saturated fat intake is important, but not nearly as vital as other things.
Rather than focusing on banishing all saturated fats from your diet, nutrition experts recommend you simply try to eat a diet full of veggies, grains and fish – along with all types of fats in moderation. Here are five smart tips for fitting fats and oils into an overall heart healthy diet.
1. Stop obsessing about saturated fats. Experts suggested we all cut back on this type of fat when they learned it raises LDL (bad) cholesterol. Since high LDL is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease this made sense, but further study finds that this type of fat has some benefits too – in the form of lowering triglycerides, and raising HDL (good) cholesterol. Together, both of these can reduce the chance of heart disease. Experts now realize that there are many vital biomarkers for heart disease, not just a single one. The AHA (American Heart Association) now recommends reducing saturated fat intake to a maximum of 7% of your total calories for the day.
2. Replace butter with variety of plant-based oils, as they are a healthier alternative. While there’s lots of argument about the healthiest unsaturated oils, olive oil is staple of the well-regarded Mediterranean diet and has earned a place among the healthy oils. It’s also for perfect salad dressings, for adding to pasta or for dipping bread, though not so good for cooking. Canola and sunflower oils are better for cooking as they both have high smoke levels and aren’t likely to overshadow the flavors of the foods.
3. Increase omega-3’s as they’ve been shown to have protective properties against abnormal heart rhythms. Omega 3’s also keep blood vessels healthy, and with brain cells high in omega-3s, they are likely important for healthy brain function as well. Some research finds that not enough omega-3 fats can be linked to psychiatric issues like depression or even schizophrenia. The AHA advises you eat at least 2 servings of oily fish a week. Other options include walnuts, flax seed or canola oil.
4. Avoid trans fats, known to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and bring down HDL (good) cholesterol, while also increasing inflammation that’s been linked to stroke, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions. Experts have found that increasing trans fats by 2% brings up the chance of heart disease by 23%. Watch for foods that have hydrogenated oils as ingredients.
5. Follow a healthy eating plan. When low-fat products became available everyone was talking about fat, and that following a healthy diet meant slashing fat from what you ate. Now experts understand that fats are a vital part of your overall healthy eating plan, especially unsaturated fats. A perfect example is the highly regarded Mediterranean diet that gets 30% of overall calories from fats that are a natural part of plant oils and fish.
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