Having some fat in your diet is essential for good health. Fat provides energy, enables your body to absorb certain vitamins and nutrients, and is required for the production of some hormones. But the type of fat you eat can have a huge impact on your health.
Types of Fats
Found in animal products, including beef, pork, poultry with the skin, butter, cream, cheese and dairy, as well as in tropical oils, like palm and coconut oil, saturated fats are solid at room temperature. A diet high in saturated fat can raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and lead to an increased risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends replacing saturated fat in your diet with unsaturated fats.
Found in baked goods, such as muffins, cookies and pie crust, fried foods, packaged snack foods, and stick margarine, trans fats are also solid at room temperature. Small amounts of trans fat may be naturally present in animal products, but most of the trans fat in the American diet is created during the processing of certain foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils. Trans fats have a doubly negative impact on heart health, as they may raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend keeping your intake of trans fat as low as possible.
Vegetable oils, like olive, canola, sesame and peanut oil, as well as avocados, olives, and many nuts, such as almonds and peanuts, are rich in monounsaturated fats. These fats are liquid at room temperature. Monounsaturated fats may reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and therefore help to reduce risk of heart disease.
Found in soybean, corn and sunflower oils, fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, and trout, walnuts and sunflower seeds, polyunsaturated fats are also liquid at room temperature. These fats provide omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids touted for their heart health benefits. Like monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats may reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and help to reduce risk of heart disease.
The Best Fats for a Heart-Healthy Diet
For a heart-healthy diet, avoid trans fats, and replace saturated fats in your diet with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Here are five quick tips to choose the “good” fats:
- Replace butter in cooking with liquid vegetable oils, like canola or olive oil.
- Trim all visible fat from meat before cooking, and remove skin from poultry.
- Enjoy fish at least twice per week.
- Choose low-fat or nonfat dairy products.
- Replaced packaged snacks, like crackers, cookies and baked goods, with heart-healthy nuts and fresh fruits and vegetables (which are naturally low in fat).
Fat and Weight Control
All fats, no matter which type, contain 9 calories per gram, which is greater than the 4 calories provided by each gram of carbohydrate or protein. The IOM recommends that about 20 to 35% of your daily calories be made up of fat, and it’s important to limit fat intake in order to keep your daily calorie intake in balance.
What’s the difference between the eMeals Heart Healthy Plan and the eMeals Low-Fat Plan?
The Low Fat Plan limits total fat, which may help you reduce your total calorie intake to manage weight. The new Heart Healthy plan limits saturated and trans fats from red meat, butter and processed foods and incorporates healthy fats from olive and canola oil, fish and nuts. Start taking steps toward achieving your healthy eating goals today, and sign up for a free eMeals trial here!
This article originally appeared as Tips for Heart-Healthy Meal Planning: Saturated Fat vs. Unsaturated Fat and is being used with permission of eMeals. Check out their versatile meal plans, and sign up for a FREE two-week trial here!