Health and Wellness: American Heart Month
February is American Heart Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women and for many is preventable. One dietary way to help lower the risk of heart disease is to limit your intake of trans fats and saturated fats.
Trans fat, also known as partially hydrogenated oil, raises bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowers good cholesterol (HDL) causing an increase risk of heart disease. Trans fats are found in fried foods, baked goods, stick margarines and shortening. To determine if a product has trans fat look in the ingredient list for partially hydrogenated oil. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your trans fat intake to no more than 1% of your total calories. If you’re on a 2,000 calorie diet that is only 2 grams of trans fats a day.
Saturated fat is another fat you want to limit. Saturated fat is mostly found in animal products like fatty beef, butter, whole milk and sour cream. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your daily amount of saturated fat to no more than 7% of your total calories. So if you’re on a 2,000 calorie diet that would be no more than 16 grams of saturated fat a day. Healthy alternatives to foods high in saturated fats are foods high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered the better fats. Replacing saturated fat with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help lower your cholesterol and risk of heart disease and stroke. Foods high in monounsaturated fat are olive oil, canola oil, avocados, peanut butter, nuts and seeds.
Polyunsaturated fat includes essential fats, omega-6 and omega-6 fatty acids, that your body needs, but can not produce on its own. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain function and growth and development of your body. Foods high in polyunsaturated fats are fatty fish, like salmon, nuts and seeds.
Along with limiting saturated and trans fats you should also limit your sodium intake and increase your intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains for heart health.