I wouldn’t call myself a HUGE Bon Jovi fan, but when thinking about February, a.k.a. heart health month, and public opinion, all that comes to mind is “You give FATS a bad name!” I am a child from the 1980’s and love some good Rock n’ Roll. I also grew up on the idea that fat in food was bad. The food industry used this trend to start producing many low fat or fat free products and replaced the fat with sugar or carbohydrates. Unfortunately, I think this perception continues to invade the minds of those outside health-related or nutrition fields.
Yes, certain types of fats are not beneficial for overall health. Specifically, saturated and trans fats can raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in the blood. These types are SOLID fats and mostly found in meats, poultry, dairy products, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and some tropical oils. The American Heart Association recommends aiming for an intake of saturated fat less than 5-6% of total calories, which comes out to about 11-13 grams of saturated fat per day if you are following a 2,000 calorie daily diet. To limit trans fats in your diet, look for “0 g trans fats” on Nutrition Facts labels and/or no hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list.
Now, onto the good stuff! Research has shown that certain fats such as unsaturated fats may actually help to improve blood cholesterol and protect against diabetes and blood pressure. Specifically, we are talking about monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which stay liquid at room temperature. Some sources include fish (salmon, trout, and herring), avocados, olives, walnuts, and liquid vegetable oils (soybean, corn, safflower, canola, olive, and sunflower). Additionally, the release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines liberalized intake of dietary cholesterol. It was once thought cholesterol from diet would lead to the artery-clogging plaques that cause heart disease; however, the truth is not by that much. Consuming sugar, trans fats, or excessive saturated fat is more harmful than dietary cholesterol itself. So, put those eggs back into your diet!
Lastly, it’s important to know that vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K are called “fat soluble vitamins.” This means, your body actually needs fat to adequately absorb these vitamins. A great way to boost absorption is to drizzle some olive oil over your salad or veggies. Or better yet, snack on some walnuts and almonds with dried fruits.
Since it’s Valentine’s Day, give your heart a shot of antioxidants (flavanols to be exact) and grab a piece of dark chocolate! Darlin’ not all FATS should get a bad name!