Some people believe that the less fat you eat, the better. You, too, may think that all fat is bad. The truth is, certain types can actually help your heart, so you don't need to avoid fat altogether. Instead, watch how much and what type you eat.
For a heart-healthy diet, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that you limit your daily fat intake to 20 to 35 percent of the calories you consume. For children, the daily fat intake should be 30 to 35 percent for those ages 2 to 3 years and 25 to 35 percent for those ages 4 to 18 years.
No matter how much you eat, most of your fat calories should come from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. They play a positive role in managing cholesterol levels. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol, can build up on artery walls and turn to plaque. High-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, helps remove plaque from artery walls.
The best choice for your heart is monounsaturated fat, because it has been shown to lower LDL levels but not HDL levels. Sources of monounsaturated fat include:
Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, pistachios and macadamia)
Polyunsaturated fat also may help lower LDL levels, but this type of fat may slightly reduce HDL levels. Sources of polyunsaturated fats include:
Sunflower seed oil
Saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol are the fats that boost the risk for coronary heart disease. Trans fats are most often found in processed foods and hydrogenated oils. You should try to limit your intake of saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your calories; limit your intake of trans fat; and your intake of cholesterol to less than 300 mg per day, the USDA says.
The best way to limit your saturated fat is to cut back on animal fats. These fats include full-fat cheese, whole milk, butter, full-fat ice cream and fatty meats such as bacon, sausage and poultry skin. Trans fat is found in foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils such as commercially prepared snack foods, cookies and desserts. Margarine, french fries, onion rings and other fried foods also contain trans fat. Cholesterol is found in eggs and organ meats.
Limit or avoid these foods, which are high in saturated fat, or look for low-fat or non-fat versions:
Red meat (beef, mutton, lamb, pork)
© 2013 Main Line Health