The Big Fat Decision

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nutritionlabel litemargarine The Big Fat Decision

A diet that is low in fat and high in fiber is best for heart health. Most people have a limited budget for fat. Did you know that the type of fat you choose has a big impact on your cholesterol level and more? Healthy fats that are naturally found in nuts, avocados and fish are beneficial in small amounts. By choosing these foods along with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans/legumes, you will consume a healthier diet.

Choosing monounsaturated fat in place of saturated fat helps you keep your cholesterol low.  Monounsaturated fats are found in olive and canola oils.
Polyunsaturated fats are classified as either omega 6 or omega 3 fatty acids.  The omega 3 variety is best for the heart. It is found in cold water fish, ground flax, canola oil, walnuts, wheat germ and some vegetables (squash, broccoli and leafy greens). Most Americans consume too much omega 6 (refined oils) and not enough omega 3s.
Saturated fat and trans fats should be limited or avoided. These fats raise LDL or bad cholesterol. Trans fat is even worse because it also lowers HDL or good cholesterol. Saturated fat is usually found in meat and dairy products. Trans fat is found in many fried foods, frozen foods and package foods made with hydrogenized shortening.

Shopping and Label Reading Tips
Most people would do better to consume a diet that is low in fat so they can control their weight. Here are shopping tips:
• Choose foods that contain 0 g trans fat. If you avoid a lot of frozen, fried and processed foods you can keep your trans fat lower.
• Choose foods with 5% or less of the daily value for saturated fat. By choosing lean meat and fat-free*dairy products you can keep your diet lower in saturated fat. (*But you should choose dairy products low in sugar, too!)
• Choose foods that are low in fat. A food that has 5% or less of the daily value for fat is low in fat.

Choose the Right Fat
It is not practical to calculate the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3’s in your diet, but if you follow these tips you are on the right track for eating the right fat:
•    Choose olive and canola oils in place of other refined oils and shortening.
•    Eat fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel or trout twice a week. (Prepare with minimal fat.)
•    Add small amounts of ground flax meal to cereal, smoothies and baked goods. Patients treated with Coumadin should not add flax to foods.
•    Add a small handful of walnuts to your salad each day - these make a great substitute for eggs, cheese and croutons!
•    Cut down on the use of refined oils, margarine, fried foods, salad dressings and mayonnaise.
By Pat Hunter, MA, RD.

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