Who said fats are the forbidden food?? Well, lots of people. Hopefully after reading this you’ll think a little bit differently. Fats aren’t considered an essential nutrient for nothing. They are important for a variety of reasons including ensuring absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, maintaining hormonal balance, and of course keeping the amazing blood pumping organ that is your heart clean and healthy.
However, all fats are not created equal. Eating too much unhealthy fat can put you at risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other negative cardiovascular health effects. For National Heart Month this February, start eating the good fats and do away with the bad. Learn your heart healthy fats!
Fat is high in calories and can lead to weight gain, so it is important to consume fat in moderation. Understanding which types of fats are good for you can help with this, so here is you crash course nutrition lesson of the day.
Heart healthy fats are your unsaturated fats, such as monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega-3 fatty acids. The molecular structure of these fats keeps them liquid at room temperature and harder to compress into artery-hardening, harmful plaque. The coolest thing about these fats is they actually have the power to lower your LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, while increasing your HDL cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol. Stick to plant-based foods, such as avocado, nuts, natural peanut butter, flaxseed, and olive oil, and fatty fish, such as salmon, and you’ll be sure to eat a healthy dose of these amazing heart-healthy fats.
On the other end of the spectrum are the saturated fats and trans fats. These are the ones with negative health consequences if eaten in excess. Found most commonly in red meats, dairy products, and processed and fried foods, these fats increase your LDL cholesterol and harden the arteries, putting the body at risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Don’t be afraid to eat meat, cheese, and even ice cream, in moderation. But avoid all trans fats from processed foods like margarine, doughnuts, and microwave popcorn.
Ok, your nutrition lesson is over, now it’s time to put all this information into action. Replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat is easy if you know the correct swaps to make. Here are five simple ways to reduce your saturated fat intake while increasing your healthy unsaturated fat intake:
Cook with olive oil instead of butter. Fairway Extra Virgin Olive Oil is delicious, and adds rich flavor to any dish.
Eat more lean cuts of meat, such as chicken and turkey, and try to keep your red meat intake to once a week.
Your oven is your friend! Bake, broil, and roast your meat, fish, and vegetables and avoid breaded and fried versions.
Stick to lighter sauces and soups without cream and cheese bases. With a good marinara or pesto sauce, you won’t even miss the alfredo! A vegetable broth-based soup can be just as tasty and satisfying as a butter-laden one.
Snack on fresh or dried fruit, a handful of almonds or cashews, or carrots and hummus. These easy snacks will keep your hunger at bay and prevent you from reaching for the high fat cheese, chocolate, or ice cream.