Protect Your Heart: Choose Healthy Fats - GMC Clinics
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Protect Your Heart: Choose Healthy Fats

THE FEAR OF FAT: Many people believe the simplistic equation: “eat fat = get fat + increase risks of having heart diseases”.

Many of my patients, who were constantly on a low fat diet, didn’t understand why, despite this restrictive diet, their waist lines over the years thickened and they felt constantly hungry and practically never satisfied by meals.

The reason behind it is that fat is highly satiating. Dieters’ obsession with strictly low-fat products merely fuels a craving for fatty foods, and that’s why they end up bingeing on cakes, biscuits and ice cream – all rich in refined carbohydrates, sugars, and trans-fat.

Sometimes “fat-free” is also taste-free.  And to retain taste and texture, food industries tend to add other ingredients, especially sugar, flour, thickeners, and salt into the products, which unfortunately contribute to overconsumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates, leading to an increase in blood sugar and weight gain which are both associated with increase risks of heart disease.

When it comes to dietary fat, what matters most is the type of fat you eat.

Not all fats affect the body in the same way. While processed and refined fats can be harmful, other types of natural fats have beneficial, life-extending properties.

Contrary to past advice to eat a low-fat diet, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we should focus on eating foods rich in healthful unsaturated fats while limiting foods high in saturated fat and avoiding trans fats altogether.

Fats are an essential nutrient with many health benefits:

  • Fats are one of the primary energy sources for the body.
  • Maintain healthy skin and hair.
  • Regulate body temperature.
  • Support the immune function.
  • Insulate internal organs.
  • Play an important role in hormonal balance.
  • Provide proper absorption of essential fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. The government’s National Food Survey shows that we are now deficient in many of these vitamins thanks to the low-fat message, especially vitamin D, the lack of which is one of the reasons behind the re-emergence of rickets.
  • Healthy fats can protect your heart and blood vessels and decrease the risks of heart attack or stroke.

How can I choose healthy fats to protect my heart?

  • For good health, the majority of the fats that you eat should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.
  • Eat less frequently food high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Limit food high in trans fat.

Step 1: Choose fats that can protect your heart

Monounsaturated Fats promote healthy blood lipid profiles, reduce bad cholesterol levels naturally, mediate blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity and regulate glucose.

Sources of monounsaturated fat

  • Avocado
  • Canola Oil
  • Olive oil  and olives
  • Sesame seeds
  • Walnuts, Almonds, Pecans. Peanuts
  • Peanut Butter and peanut oil

Polyunsaturated Fats can lower your bad cholesterol (LDL) which can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Sources of polyunsaturated fat

  • Corn oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Cottonseed Oil
  • Flaxseeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salad dressings
  • Soft tub margarine
  • Tahini or sesame paste
  • Walnuts

Omega-3 Fats can prevent blood clogging of the arteries

Eat fish twice to three times per week. Choose canned fish in water instead of in oil.

Sources of omega-3  fats

  • Salmon
  • Albacore Tuna
  • Sardine
  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Soybeans and soybean oil
  • Tofu
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Canola oil

The glorified Mediterranean-style diet that is high in fats from extra-virgin olive oil, nuts and fish, has been shown to significantly reduce cardiovascular disease, diabetes and long-term weight gain.

Step 2: Eat less food high in Saturated fats and cholesterol

Saturated fats occur naturally in many foods, mainly from animal sources, and are typically solid at room temperature.

Replacing foods that are high in saturated fat with healthier options can lower blood cholesterol levels and improve lipid profiles

Sources of Saturated fat

  • Butter
  • Cream cheese
  • Heavy cooking cream
  • Cheese and high fat dairy products made from whole milk
  • Palm oil and kernel oil
  • Coconut oil and coconut milk
  • Fatback and salt Pork
  •  bacon, and bacon grease
  • Lard and shortening
  • High fat meats like lamb, pork, poultry with skin, hotdog, sausage
  • Chocolate
  • Pre-packed  and processed foods

Your body makes some of the cholesterol in your blood. The rest comes from the food you eat.

Although your body needs cholesterol to make some hormones, vitamins, and to help in the digestion process, eating too much cholesterol rich foods may increase your risks of having heart disease or stroke.

Sources of Cholesterol

  • Egg yolks
  • High fat dairy products
  •  Organ meats and liver
  • Shrimps

Step 3: Limit food rich in Trans fat

Trans fat can raise your bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and lower your good cholesterol (HDL) levels.  Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

Sources of Trans fat

  • Fried foods
  • Shortening
  • Industrial/commercial  pastries (cakes, cookies, donuts, pies, frozen pizza)
  • Stick margarine
  • Foods made with hydrogenated oil
  • Foods made with partially hydrogenated oil

Eating foods with fat is definitely part of a heart healthy diet as discussed in the last post “protect your heart- make smart food choices”.

Just remember to choose more frequently foods that provide good fats and treat yourself occasionally with foods containing saturated fats.

Avoid trans-fat rich foods however keep in mind that meals should never become boring and rigid.  A healthy diet can include the foods you love. You don’t have to restrict these treats entirely.

Also, the quality of fat you eat is just as important as the quantity when it comes to an adequate balanced diet.

But remember that flexibility, pleasure and mindful eating are essential in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.