Fat often has a bad reputation, but it is a nutrient that is essential for your health. It comes in different forms, including saturated, Trans, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. It is best to choose unsaturated fats, such as the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, because they offer health-protective benefits. These heart-healthy fats are typically liquid at room temperature and come from plants. Furthermore, it is recommended to limit saturated and trans fats, which usually solid at room temperature and have been shown to increase your risk of developing heart disease.
Saturated fats and are found in fatty meat, poultry skin, bacon, sausage, whole milk, cream and butter, while trans fats are found in stick margarine, shortening, fried foods, and packaged foods made with hydrogenated oils. To cut back on the amount of saturated fats you eat, select lean cuts of beef and pork, such as those labeled “loin” or “round.” When eating poultry, remove the skin before serving it. It is best to bake, broil, roast, stew or stir-fry lean proteins rather than deep frying. If you are preparing ground meat, choose leaner options and drain off the fat after cooking. You can also get protein in your diet from plant foods instead of meat. Some good options are egg whites, soy protein, tofu or tempeh, edamame, lentils, split peas, and dried beans.
Unsaturated fats are heart healthy and reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated fats are usually found in nuts and seeds, oils (like olive oil, canola, oil, and safflower oil,) avocadoes and peanut butter. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat. Alpha linolenic acid, which is one type of Omega-3 fatty acid, is found in vegetable oils, such as canola oil and soybean oil, nuts, seeds, and soy foods. EPA and DHA, which are long-change Omega-3 fatty acids provide the most benefit for your heart. They can be found in fatty fish, including salmon, tuna, mackerel, lake trout, and sardines.
To add more Omega-3 fatty acids to your meals, try adding flaxseed oil or ground flaxseed to your foods. It is important to note that your body cannot digest the beneficial fat if flaxseed is left whole. Walnuts are a great source of alpha linoleic acid, so add walnut oil to salad dressings or whole walnuts to your salads. When planning your meals, be sure to include two 4-ounce portions of fatty fish weekly. Some eggs are also high in Omega-3 fatty acids depending on the type of feed that was given to the chickens, so read labels on the egg cartons. Finally, if you are interested in taking a fish oil supplement, the American Heart Association recommends that people with heart disease receive 1 gram of Omega-3 fatty acids daily.
Even though some types of fats are heart healthy, fat is still a concentrated source of calories. It is recommended to limit the total amount of fat that you eat, including heart-healthy fats, to 25% to 35% of the calories you consume. If you eat 2,000 calories per day, it means your fat intake should be between 50 grams and 75 grams per day.