Our bodies need fat for energy, cell growth, to protect our organs, nutrient absorption and production of hormones, but the type of fat you choose to consume may play a role in your risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consuming 25-35 percent of total calories from fat. There are four dietary fats: saturated fat, trans fat, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Saturated and trans fats may increase low density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, the bad cholesterol, and increase our risk for heart disease and stroke, while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat may improve LDL cholesterol levels and provide us with antioxidant-rich vitamin E. Consuming a wide variety of foods and replacing saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats may help maintain heart health.
Saturated & trans fats
Most saturated and trans fats are solid at room temperature, like stick margarine, shortening and coconut oil. They can also be found in foods such as fatty meats with marbling (chuck, prime rib, sausage, ribs), poultry skin and high fat dairy products (whole milk, butter, cheese). The AHA recommends that saturated fat intake in our diet is around 5-6% of calories. Trans fats are mostly man-made fats used to prolong shelf life of foods. They can be found in foods such as commercially-prepared baked goods, some fast foods and any food that lists hydrogenated fats in the ingredients list. The Food and Drug Administration ruled that trans fats do not meet the criteria for the “generally recognized as safe” category and has guidelines to reduce them from the food supply. The AHA suggests keeping trans fat intake to less than 1% of total calories.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats
Unsaturated oils are liquid at room temperature, but may become slightly solid when cooled. Some examples of these oils would be olive, canola and safflower. Polyunsaturated fats cannot be made by the body and must be consumed through diet. Salmon, tuna, mackerel, walnuts, flaxseed and soybeans are examples of foods that contain these fats. Around 20-30% of total calories should be derived from unsaturated fats. All types of fat, whether saturated, trans or unsaturated, contain nine calories per gram and should be eaten in moderation to limit overall calorie intake.
Source: Julie Holbrook MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian with the Centegra Healthy Living Institute.
If you’d like to learn more about heart healthy eating, including your specific fat gram needs, schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian at the Centegra Healthy Living Institute by calling 877-CENTEGRA (236-8347).