If you or someone you love has heart disease, it is no laughing matter. According to the CDC, heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. Fortunately, some risk factors of heart disease can be combated by simply changing eating and exercise habits. While there are many factors we can focus on nutritionally with heart disease, fats deserve some undivided attention.
The American Heart Association has a really cute and catchy way to educate us on Bad Fats and Better Fats. They refer to bad fats as the “Bad Fat Brothers” (a.k.a trans fat and saturated fat). These bad fats increase your risk for heart disease by increasing blood cholesterol levels. You can find “bad” fats in full fat dairy products, fried foods, highly processed foods, and fatty meats. You should seek out the food label and look to see how much trans and saturated fats products contain. Your daily limit of saturated fat should be less than 7% of your total calories and less than 1% of trans fat.
The “Better Fat Sisters”, Mon and Poly (short for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), are better for you because they can help lower your risk for heart disease by lowering your blood cholesterol levels. Sources of these fats can be found in nuts, avocados, seeds, vegetable oils (such as canola & olive) , and fatty fish. 25% to 35% of your total daily calories should come from these better fats.
Here are some more important tips to remember when shopping heart smart.
1. Always compare labels if there is a regular, light or low-fat, and fat-free version. Many times companies add back more sugar and salt to products when they take the fat out. You will see this more in nut butters and salad dressings. It may be better to do a little of the real thing versus light or fat-free version depending on the product.
2. Look for the American Heart Association Heart Check Mark on products. These products are approved by the AHA.
3. Avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. They can contain trans fats. Check the ingredient label for this terminology.
4. Choose fattier fish at least 2 times a week. Fatty fish consumption from salmon, tuna, herring, or mackerel is proven to be cardioprotective.
5. Look for the terms “loin” and “round” when buying pork or red meat.
6. Choose leaner, light poultry meats more often.
7. Buy vegetable oils, like canola or olive.
Check out the American Heart Association’s website for more great nutrition information at www.heart.org. and to meet the “Bad Fat Brothers” and “Better Fat Sisters”.