If you want to lower your cholesterol, looking at the type of fat you eat is a good place to start. A diet high in saturated fat and trans fat can drive up total cholesterol and unhealthy LDL cholesterol. This can lead to blockages in the arteries of the heart and increase the risk for heart disease.
The American Heart Association recommends a diet that achieves 5-6% of its total calories from saturated fat. This means that if you consume 1,800 calories a day, no more than 108 calories should come from saturated fat, which amounts to 12 grams of saturated fat per day. Saturated fats are found in animal products like meat, butter, full fat dairy products such as cheese, cream and milk. Saturated fat is also found in commercially prepared baked goods as well as coconut oil and palm oil.
Trans fats raise the bad cholesterol, LDL and lower the good cholesterol, HDL. The main source of trans fats in processed foods is “partially hydrogenated oils.” You can spot these fats on the ingredient list in some packaged foods. Trans fats can also be found in fried foods, as well as cakes, pie crust, biscuits and doughnuts. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of partially hydrogenated oils we eat to help reduce trans fat intake.
It’s important to note that not all fats are bad. In fact, fat is necessary for the body to help provide energy. Fat also helps with absorption of vitamins and minerals, and aids in blood clotting and muscle movement. Healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats have been show to improve cholesterol levels and may also help decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes
Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil, canola oil, avocado, nuts such as almonds, pecans and hazelnuts as well as pumpkin and sesame seeds. Good sources of polyunsaturated fats include walnuts, sunflower seeds, flax seed or flax oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil and fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies, trout, albacore tuna and sardines.
To further reduce your intake of unhealthy saturated fats follow these suggestions from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
- Select very lean cuts of beef and pork, such as those labeled “loin” or “round.”
- Take the skin off poultry (such as chicken or turkey) before serving it.
- Bake, broil, roast, stew, or stir-fry meats (very lean), fish, or poultry.
- Cook ground meat (use extra lean) and then drain off the fat.
- When making stews or soups, refrigerate the broth and skim off the fat with a spoon before reheating and serving.
Eat fish regularly. Try different ways to cook it so that you’ll enjoy it more:
- Grill salmon on skewers with eggplant, peppers, cherry tomatoes, okra, and onions.
- Dip tilapia in milk (1%/skim) and egg white, then dip it in bread crumbs or corn meal, and sauté for a short time (about 10 minutes) in a pan sprayed with oil.
- Bake white fish (cod, tilapia, haddock, and halibut) and vegetables sealed in foil.
- Poach white fish in milk (1%/skim), tomato juice, or water with lemon juice.
- Broil tuna and then squeeze lemon juice on it.
- Marinate any white fish for 15 minutes in Italian salad dressing, then bake.
- Make a tuna salad with red and green peppers, and other vegetables (e.g., celery).
When cooking foods on a griddle or in a frying pan, brush the pan with cooking oil just to coat it. Or, use a nonstick spray of vegetable oil or a nonstick pan that requires no greasing.
To limit saturated fat from milk products:
- Thicken sauces with evaporated nonfat (skim) milk instead of whole or 2% milk.
- Use a low-fat cheese or feta cheese in pasta dishes, such as lasagna.
Get protein from plant foods (such as soy, dried beans and legumes, or nuts and seeds) or egg whites instead of meat:
- Add soy or pea protein crumbles to chili and spaghetti sauce.
- Use tofu or tempeh in a stir-fry with lots of vegetables.
- Make soups with edamame (fresh or frozen soybeans), lentils, split peas, or dried beans.
- Make an egg white omelet with green peppers, tomatoes, and onions.
- Add nuts and seeds to salads and vegetables.
- Enjoy nut and peanut butter sandwiches on whole grain bread.
When you do cook with fat, choose healthy, liquid vegetable oils:
- Use healthy oils, such as canola, olive, corn, sunflower, or soybean oil, in recipes and for sautéing.
- Make salad dressings with olive, walnut, or pecan oil.
- Cook with lemon juice or herbs. These add flavor to foods, like vegetables, without adding fat.
If you would like more help with heart healthy eating, contact the dietitians at [email protected]