It’s not news that there’s a link between fat intake and heart disease. You know, I cover it from different angles frequently because it’s important. So, take a look at some unhealthy fats in your diet and try some of the 5 easy ways to trade them in.
Let’s be clear about this: The discovery of the link between heart disease and fat intake has led many people to erroneously cut all fat from their diet.
But…your body needs a little of just about everything for its optimal health, including fats.
- When it comes to fat, the right kind is the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated varieties.
- The harmful fats are the saturated fats and trans fats.
Here are some of the benefits of Monounsaturated Fats (MUFAs) backed by research.
➡ The American Heart Association recommends the consumption of monounsaturated fats because they improve the body’s lipid (fats) profile and lower LDL cholesterol, the kind you don’t want.
➡ They lower your risk of heart disease and stroke
➡ Healthy portions of monounsaturated fats support healthy weight loss.
The American Diabetes Association published a study that found diets that include monounsaturated fat help reduce belly fat (as opposed to those high in carbohydrates). It’s not just about sit-ups!
Benefits of Polyunsaturated Fats
That lowers the risk of heart disease, clogged arteries, and stroke.
➡ Polyunsaturated fats also provide us with essential nutrients to support the health of our cells.
In addition, oils rich in polyunsaturated fats provide the antioxidant vitamin E, something many Americans lack in their diet.
➡ Oils rich in polyunsaturated fats provide us with the type of fats that the body does not produce on its own, such as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids that can only be obtained from food, such as fatty fish, soybean, corn and sunflower oil.
So, here are 5 simple changes you can make today to start replacing your intake of bad fats with healthier choices.
1. Switch from butter to olive oil when cooking
Butter is predominately saturated fat, and for those worried about their cardiovascular health, a simple switch to olive oil can make all the difference.
Best of all, olive oil has a high smoke point meaning that it can be used both at room temperature and in high heat situations such as grilling and pan-frying.
However, just because it is a healthier choice does not mean you can splash it all over your food.
ALL fats and oils contain at least 9 calories per gram, which can quickly turn into extra pounds on your body, (leading to stress on your heart)
2. Watch out for trans fats
➡ Trans fats clog arteries and raise your cholesterol levels. Trans fats are the unhealthiest fats of all.
The primary dietary source of trans fats in processed food is what’s called partially “hydrogenated oil”.
Almost everyone loves an occasional pastry or donut. However, not everyone knows that these treats are almost always very high in trans fats.
Thankfully (thanks to targeted education and a constant stream of research and information to the public), many manufacturers and bakeries are modifying their recipes and have started to use healthier fats such as those from vegetable oils.
***As of June 16, 2015 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that trans fats are no longer generally recognized as safe, and they have taken steps to remove artificial trans fats in processed foods. This could prevent thousands of heart attacks and deaths each year. Food manufacturers have until this year (June 2018) to completely phase out all trans fats.
3. Choose reduced-fat dairy products
However, many dairy products such as full cream and whole milk are high in saturated fats.
Try switching to reduced-fat dairy products (you can do it in steps if it will make it easier: whole milk to 2% milk to 1% milk, to skim milk.)
Reduced fat dairy still provides you with all the calcium you need, while giving you more moderate levels of saturated fat.
4. Pass on the coconut oil and use canola oil, please!
One of the biggest “health fads” started in 2014 is coconut oil.
What many people still don’t seem to understand is that coconut oil is extremely high in saturated fat and should only be used in very limited quantities.
For the health of your heart, switch to canola oil, which like coconut oil can be used at high temperatures, but contains far less saturated fat while providing you with healthy monounsaturated fat.
5. Trim your meat
Cutting into a juicy steak is one of the simple pleasures in life (unless you’re a vegetarian!). unfortunately, fatty cuts of meat can lead to an overload of saturated fats in your body.
To reduce your intake without passing on the steak, ask your local butcher for or select lean cuts of meat with minimal visible fat (white marble).
If this service is not available to you, simply cut off any visible fat from your meat before grilling it.
I know, I know…It won’t taste quite the same, but you’ll be saving your heart and the very real possibility of needing heart surgery in the future.
You know life is full of compromises. This is just one of them and not too difficult to do.
The best choices for extra lean cuts of steaks and roasts are:
- Eye of round
- Bottom round
- Sirloin tip or top sirloin
- Top round
Take Home Message
The science surrounding dietary fat intake has greatly evolved over time, with current research suggesting that eliminating all fat from our diets is simply not necessary.
However, we do know that we should limit our consumption of saturated and trans fats as these have proven to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Do it for the health of it.