Fat has long been the culprit for causing all sorts of health ailments, heart disease being one at the top of the list. While it is true that fat intake poses major risks to our heart health, it doesn’t have to be that way. Let me explain.
The fact of the matter is that all fat was not created equal and some really good guys in the fat department are taking a pretty hard wrap when it comes to the heart. Having a sound understanding of the different types of fat and knowing where you can find this information in regards to the food you consume is critical in doing the best possible job caring for your heart.
Types of Fat
Saturated Fat: This type of fat is solid at room temperature. Saturated fat comes mainly from animal sources. Examples are butter, and fats from meat sources. Saturated fats are known to increase LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Unsaturated Fat: This type of fat is liquid at room temperature and largely comes from plant based sources. Examples are canola oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds, fish, and avocados. Unsaturated fats are known to increase HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. MOST of our dietary intake of fat should be from this category.
Omega 3′s: Omega 3 fatty acids have been getting a lot of recognition and attention lately as the ideal fat, and so deserved. They are essential fatty acids (meaning we have to consume them) needed by our bodies for proper function. They work to reduce inflammation in the body, including blood vessels. This works to decrease stroke and provides a benefit to the health of the heart and all blood vessels.
Trans Fat: This type of fat is the one that should be avoided like the plague, but is unfortunately consumed at an ever increasing level. It is normally liquid at room temperature but has been chemically altered to be solid when at room temperature in a process called hydrogenation. What is the point, you ask? Aahh! It’s all about better taste, better texture, and making the food last a longer on your shelf. Just the things we fall for hook, line and sinker in our fast paced society today. This type of fat is commonly found in processed foods as well as margarine.
Trans fats are known to increase LDL (bad) cholesterol and decrease HDL (good cholesterol). This is not only bad for you, it is double trouble as it alters the good cholesterol levels as well.
Reading Labels: Your Avenue to Protecting your Heart
Fortunately, when it comes to the foods we eat, laws require that the ingredients be listed on the product packaging, as well as how much fat we are consuming as a percentage based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Both are important.
As far as ingredients are concerned, things to look for and avoid are anything that contains the words hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. Those items contain trans fat and should be avoided no matter what as no known level is deemed a “safe” amount to consume.
Limit the amount of saturated fat consumed (usually animal products).Look to fill your daily fat intake with unsaturated fats such monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found largely in fish and plant products.
Experts recommend that the fat in our diet should not exceed 25% of our total calories. Those already suffering from heart disease should consume an even lower percentage than that (15-20% max), and should be super careful to consume only those in the unsaturated fats categories.
Exercise is another avenue to improving your heart health. Speak with your doctor and work out an exercise plan that may be able to benefit you and work side by side your increased attention to fat intake.