For many years, health experts thought that all fats were bad for our health. Now we know that some fats are actually good for us, especially our hearts. So, what’s the difference between the “good” and “bad” fats?

Heart-Healthy Fat vs. Bad Fat

“The heart-healthy fats, called unsaturated fat, are usually found in fish like salmon, nuts and some vegetable-based oils like olive oil,” explains Sheila Mulhern, RD. “Unhealthy fats including trans-fat and saturated fat are found mostly in animal-based meat products and full-fat dairy.”

The healthy, unsaturated fats include monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat, which can help your heart by improving your cholesterol and reducing plaque buildup in your arteries.

All fats provide the same calories, 8 calories per gram.  “Unsaturated fats can improve your heart health by boosting the healthy, or HDL cholesterol, while avoiding saturated and trans fats, which increase inflammation, helps reduce the bad, or LDL cholesterol,” said Daisy Lazarous, MD, a cardiologist with Adventist Medical Group.

How to Eat More Heart-Healthy Fat

  • Go Fish. Eat eight ounces of non-fried fish like albacore tuna, herring, salmon, lake trout, mackerel and sardines each week. They contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids that can help reduce plaque buildup in your heart’s arteries.
  • Go Nuts. Pack a small handful of nuts (about one ounce) for a heart-healthy snack on the go. Try almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or walnuts.
  • Add Avocado. Try adding avocado to your sandwich, salad, smoothie or using it as a mayo alternative in chicken or tuna salad.
  • Check the Oils. When cooking or preparing a salad, try oils lower in saturated fats like avocado, olive, canola or soybean oil.

Cut Down on Bad Fat

“In general, the best way to eat a healthy diet, low in fat is to pack your diet with fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains and lean protein like chicken and fish,” said Mulhern.

Try to limit or avoid:

  • Red meat
  • Baked goods like doughnuts, cookies, crackers, muffins, pies, and cakes
  • Commercially fried foods like fried food and fast-food
  • Full-fat dairy products like milk and cheese

Most importantly, remember that eating in moderation is the key.

Sheila Mulhern, RD

Sheila Mulhern, RD

Outpatient Registered Dietitian

Sheila is a registered dietitian for Adventist HealthCare’s Outpatient Nutrition & Diabetes program.

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