Part 3: Eating the Right Amounts of the Right Fats
In Parts 1 and 2, we learned what the different kinds of dietary fats are and what the functions of each are. Now it’s time to learn how to apply that information. Here are five “rules” to help you make heart healthy dietary choices.
1. Avoid saturated fats. This rule hasn’t changed much—it’s still a good idea to choose lean cuts of meat, choose poultry over red meat and drink low fat milk. Read package labels—the amount of saturated fat is usually printed on them. Baked goods are often high in saturated fats.
There is some controversy about butter. Butter is a saturated fat, and some people still advise not eating it. On the other side of the discussion are people who point out that most margarine contains trans fat, which is worse for you than saturated fat. Butter is also good for cooking, because it doesn’t break down at high temperatures. This is an area where you’ll have to consider the available information, and make a decision for yourself.
2. Avoid trans fats. We should see trans fat amounts printed on packages soon. Margarine and shortening may contain high levels of trans fat. Fried foods are often very high in trans fats even if they are fried in healthy oil because oils tend to break down into trans fats and other substances at high temperatures.
3. Use monounsaturated fats in moderation. Olive oil, nuts and avocadoes are good sources of heart healthy monounsaturated fats. The Mediterranean Diet, which uses olive oil for cooking and drizzling over food, is an example of a diet with a good balance of heart healthy fats.
4. Decrease your omega 6 fats. This is not as easy to do as you might think. Foods aren’t labeled with their omega 6 content. As a rule of thumb, most cooking oils are high in omega 6 fatty acids. Cereals, grains and poultry are other sources of omega 6 fatty acids.
5. Increase your omega 3 fats. Omega 3’s are the heart healthy fat. There are two ways to get more of them: eat an omega 3 rich diet, and/or take a supplement.
Foods that are high in omega 3 fatty acids are green leafy vegetables, fish, grass-fed beef and wild game. Omega 3 eggs and milk are also available. Fish is the best dietary source of omega 3, and it is recommended that you eat fatty fish (which is highest in omega 3) several times a week.
There are concerns with eating that much fish, though. Nearly all fish are contaminated with mercury and pesticides, and eating too much can be dangerous. For this reason, many people choose to take an omega 3 supplement.
The most common omega 3 supplement is fish oil. If you take fish oil, make sure that it is “pharmaceutically pure” or “microscopically refined. ” These processes remove toxic contaminants. The American Heart Association recommends taking a gram of fish oil a day as protection against heart disease.
If you prefer not to take fish oil, try flax seed oil instead. It is a different kind of omega 3 fatty acid, but our bodies use it in the same way. You need to take a higher dose, though—at least two grams a day.
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Penny Watkins is a freelance writer at PillsPills Pharmacy who worked as a critical care nurse for over twenty years, specializing in cardiovascular nursing.