Cholesterol and Heart Disease Continued

Myth #2: I have to stay away from all fats.

Reality: For years, the emphasis was on the importance of a low-fat diet, especially for the health of our hearts. It’s no wonder that when many people hear the word “fats,” they immediately think “unhealthy.”

But what wasn’t considered in the recommendation was the different types of fat. Some are actually good for us. The new dietary recommendations take both “good” and “bad” fat into account, which, thankfully, leads to a much tastier way of eating.

What exactly are “fats”? First, you need to know that there are three types of nutrients in foods: proteins, carbohydrates and fats. These provide the necessary building blocks for our bodies to function. Some fats are good for our health, and others are bad.

Unsaturated fats are the “good” fats, coming mostly from plant or vegetable sources, and not from red meat. Examples of these are olive oil, flaxseed oil and fish oil (such as from salmon).

Saturated fats and trans fats are bad for our hearts. Saturated fats are mostly from animal sources, such as meat and full-fat dairy products. Trans fats are man-made; manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil in order to increase the flavor and the shelf life. Trans fats are found in many snack foods (potato chips, cookies, cakes), margarine, vegetable shortenings and some fried foods. “Good” fats should definitely be incorporated into our daily diets. Cooking with olive oil, sprinkling ground flaxseed on yogurt or cereal, and eating wild salmon are easy ways to do this.

Try to avoid or limit your intake of saturated and trans fats. Using low fat dairy products (or those labeled as “no fat”), limiting the amount of red meat, and avoiding margarine, fried foods and snack foods are ways to do this. Not only will you help your heart by eating, but you’ll stay at a healthy weight and feel better!

By Janet Horn, M.D. and Robin H. Miller, M.D., Special to LifeScript

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