Look beyond the total fat in a given food. Don’t focus on the percentage of calories from fat per serving…this number does not decipher between your good and bad fats. Therefore, it is more important to focus on the type of fat that is beneficial to heart health than a particular food’s ratio of calories from fat. For instance, instead of using butter to saute vegetables, use canola oil. Moreover, snack on a handful of nuts instead of pretzels. These small changes may help protect you from heart disease.
Check the nutrition label for the amounts of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These are the healthy unsaturated fats, who’s numbers should be higher than those for trans and saturated fats, both of which are linked to heart disease. If your food does not have these nutrients listed, you can easily figure out these good fats by subtracting the amount of trans and saturated fats from the total fat. This number will give you the estimated unsaturated fat amount. Make sure to minimize saturated and trans fat in your daily diet and try to incorporate foods with healthy unsaturated fats.
Fats that raise your cholesterol are saturated fats, trans fats and dietary cholesterol. Saturated fats originate from animal foods such as whole milk, cream, ice cream, whole milk cheeses, butter, lard and meats as well as from certain plant oils such as palm, palm kernel, and coconut oils, and cocoa butter. Trans fats, whose source is from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are found in cookies, cakes, crackers, French fries, fried onion rings, and donuts. Trans fats result from adding hydrogen to vegetable oils used in commercial baked goods and for cooking in most restaurants and fast food restaurants. Lastly, dietary cholesterol is found in animal food sources such as meats, egg yolks, dairy products, organ meats, fish and poultry.
On the other hand, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats both lower your cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fats are found in certain plant oils such as safflower, sesame, corn, soy, and sunflower-seed oils, as well as in nuts and seeds. Monounsaturated fats are found in certain plant oils, as well such as olive, canola, and peanut oils, along with avocados.
Overall, the type of fat is what is most important for us to focus on for our health. For a quick rule of thumb regarding your fat intake: unsaturated fats are to be emphasized, trans fats are to be avoided, and saturated fats are to be kept on the lower level.
What are your favorite “good fats’ that you incorporate into your daily meals/snacks?