Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dietary Fats and Heart Health

February is American Heart Health Month, so we are looking at lifestyle changes you can make to be more heart healthy.

So, how can you be heart healthy? 
- Eat a Healthy Diet
- Be Physically Active
- Check in with Your Doctor

Today, we are focusing on healthy dietary choices to be more heart healthy. A diet moderate in fat can help keep your heart healthy. We need fats for energy, cushioning of vital organs, absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and much more. But, the types of fat you choose are important. Today, we are discussing the four types of fats: saturated fats, trans fat, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). Saturated fats and trans fats are usually lumped together as "bad fats" and PUFA and MUFA are usually lumped together as "good fats." But lets look at each type of fat in a little more in depth.

Types of fat
Dietary Reference Intake encourage linolenic acid, which is an essential MUFA in the omega-3 family, to 5-10% of total calories. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Some examples of foods high in linolenic acid are: nuts & seeds (flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans), vegetables (soybeans), and oils (canola, flaxseed, soybean, walnut, and wheat germ).

2) PUFA 
Dietary Reference Intake encourage linoleic acid, which is an essential PUFA in the omega-6 family, to 0.6-1.2% of total calories. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Some examples of foods high in linoleic acid are: nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils(corn, safflower, sesame, soybean, and sunflower).

3) Saturated fat
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. The name 'saturated fat' comes from the chemical structure of these fats which are 'saturated' with hydrogen atoms.The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to <7% of total energy. The Dietary Reference Intakes recommend limiting straight fat to <10% of calories within a healthy diet. the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 (DGA 2010) recommend limiting solid fats like milk fats, high-fat meats and cheeses, hard margarine, butter, lard, and shortening. DGA 2010 recommends limiting saturated fats to 10% of calories and replacing foods high in saturated fats with foods high in MUFA and PUFA.

4) Trans fat
The American Heart Association recommends limiting trans fats in your diet to <1% of total energy intake. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 encourages you to keep trans fat intake as low as possible by limiting foods that are synthetic sources of trans fats. For example, you can limit your trans fats by limiting your consumption of partially hydrogenated oils. 

I hope this information was helpful to increase your knowledge of the types of fats and recommendations for consumption. Some disease states require higher or lower fat consumption. Please check with your RD or MD before starting a new diet. If you have a family history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart attack (myocardial infarctions), please check in with your doctor to get a physical. Tell your doctor your family history of heart disease, your concerns for your health, and ask about what screening you should do.

We will go through each of the dietary and lifestyle topics this week to look more in depth on how you can be heart healthy. Tomorrow we are discussing cholesterol and heart health. Stay tuned.

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