While trans fats were once widely believed to be the leading cause of heart disease, many studies have shown that moderate amounts of fat in your diet are good. For example, research published in the British Medical Journal showed that a Mediterranean diet that includes olive oil could reduce your risk of dying early by 13 per cent.
Use fat-free or low-fat dairy products like yoghurt or milk, and limit full-fat products like butter. While you might not have noticed it, processed foods like sandwich fillings that are low in fat are likely still full of calories and saturated fat.
Limit saturated fat
While you may not have heard much about saturated fat lately, there is some controversy regarding its role in the risk of heart disease. One recent study published in the Lancet, showed that people who ate a lot of saturated fat were at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease, even when their blood pressure was normal. But that does not mean you have to limit your intake entirely. Instead, limit saturated fat to 30 per cent of your total calories.
Use a different measuring system
You may be under the impression that all saturated fat is bad for your heart. But it is not so cut and dry. Research has found that the saturated fat we have in our diet, especially if it is plant-based, can help protect our hearts and even prevent heart disease in people genetically predisposed to the condition. Plant-based fats, such as olive oil, are chemically unsaturated. Therefore, they can also lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol levels without lowering your “good” HDL levels.
Focus on keeping your omega-3 levels high
Research shows that omega-3 oils like omega-3 fish oil can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. This is because omega-3 fish oils contain long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve the function of the vessels and reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 20 per cent, according to research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish each week.
Not all fats are created equal
While monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats have many potential health benefits, saturated fats are not as helpful for your heart health. This is because they are high in cholesterol and can contribute to weight gain. While butter, for example, is higher in saturated fat, the type is higher in monounsaturated fats. On the other hand, the saturated fat in olive oil has much more beneficial polyunsaturated fats.
Other Heart-Healthy Fats to Explore
Regarding food, ghee is no longer reserved for Indian cooking. Western chefs have increasingly added ghee to their menus in recent years, and the results have been well received. It is made of melted butter and has a nutty, slightly grassy taste. It has several heart-healthy benefits and may even lower cholesterol and blood clot.
Studies have found that olive oil can help control LDL cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. It can also help reduce your risk of heart disease.
Like olive oil, avocado oil is high in monounsaturated fats and healthier than saturated fats. Another one to consider is sunflower oil, another oil rich in monounsaturated fats. Studies have shown sunflower oil can help control LDL cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure.
Walnuts are high in monounsaturated fats. A study found that people who eat more nuts have a lower risk of heart disease. Walnuts have been shown to help prevent heart disease in people at high risk and could even reduce your risk by as much as 35 percent. Adding a handful of walnuts to your daily diet could help keep your heart healthy.
As for almonds, they have a high-fat content, but the high omega-3 content makes them heart-healthy. A study found that women who ate a handful of almonds daily had a lower risk of heart disease and a reduced risk of death from heart disease than women who ate less. For the best heart-healthy nuts, try to buy unsalted almonds, as they are lower in fat.
Limit trans fats in your diet
Trans fats are bad for your heart because they raise harmful cholesterol levels. They also raise blood pressure and increase your risk of a heart attack. Many trans fats, including partially hydrogenated oils, are manufactured from vegetable and olive oil. However, there are no regulations on what trans fats can be used in food production. Regular consumption of trans fats can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and an increased risk of heart disease.
Make better fat choices
To make a healthy choice regarding fats, be aware of the fat content in your foods and choose plant-based unsaturated fats, such as olive oil and canola oil. Look for these in food labels:
Olive oil: Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fat. This means it has good health benefits.
Canola oil: Canola oil is higher in polyunsaturated fat, which are heart-healthy.
Walnut oil: Walnut oil is a good choice for those looking for a high-fat oil.
When adding fat to your diet, good choices include olive oil, butter, avocados, nuts and seeds.
After reviewing the heart-healthy fats you should be consuming, there are a few more things to consider. It is best to cut down on trans fats, found mainly in highly processed foods and added to food such as breakfast cereal, hot dog buns, baked goods, and margarine. Consume most oils in moderation. Avoid hydrogenated oils, such as margarine and partially hydrogenated oils, as they are the most common forms of trans fats.