Switching To Unsaturated Fats For Better Heart Health
Most people understand the concept that having high cholesterol is bad for the heart. But when reviewed in more detail, people need to understand that cholesterol includes good and bad forms. HDL is known as good cholesterol, which is usually processed and expelled through the liver. LDL is considered bad cholesterol, which can lead to blockage in the arteries. One way to improve cholesterol levels, especially LDL, is through improving the diet. Consider swapping out unhealthy saturated fats for the following unsaturated fat alternatives.
Saturated versus unsaturated fats explained
Not all fat is considered bad, which can be confusing for many people trained to believe that any fat can be dangerous. Two common types of dietary fats found in food are saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fat is the type most likely to contribute to higher LDL levels and is typically found in fatty cuts of meat and dairy products made from whole milk, butter, and cream. While heavy consumption is discouraged, people can still enjoy a limited saturated fat intake. In contrast, unsaturated fats can improve HDL levels and can also reduce a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease.
Rethinking cooking oils
Whereas saturated fats are often found in foods like meat and dairy, unsaturated fats are typically found in foods such as natural oils, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and avocados. When cooking foods, consider swapping out butter or lard for healthier oil options such as olive, peanut, sunflower, corn, walnut, or canola oil.
Upgrade to healthier proteins
For people used to a diet heavy with red meats, consider switching out a few meals a week to a healthier protein choice. In particular, fatty fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines, and herring are healthier options. All of the previously mentioned fish are rich in omega-3 fats, which are beneficial for the heart.
Get more fiber
Along with swapping out unhealthy fats for healthier options, people focused on improving LDL cholesterol levels should also consider adding more fiber every day. Fiber helps to reduce LDL but also improves how the body digests food and absorbs nutrients. Additionally, fiber can aid in managing blood sugar and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal disease. Another added benefit of adding more fiber is that the substance can improve weight management. Ideally, adults should be eating between 25 to 35 grams of fiber every day.
Opt for healthier versions of meats and dairy
If completely removing red meats or dairy sounds hard, consider swapping out fat-rich meats and dairy for low-fat alternatives. For example, select leaner cuts of meat like round, chuck, loin, or sirloin for beef. Also, swap out full-fat dairy products for low-fat (also known as one percent) or fat-free (skim) alternatives. Also, consider low-sodium or part-skim cheeses.
Watch the condiments and seasonings
While most people focus on the main foods on a plate, seasonings and condiments can be hidden contributors to high cholesterol. Both items can be sources of sodium, which also increases a person’s risk of heart disease when consumed in excess. Instead, opt for low-sodium condiments. Always pay attention to the amount of salt used while cooking.
When in doubt, check the nutrition labels
Figuring out which foods are safe and which options should be avoided can be difficult. Thankfully, foods purchased in grocery stores contain nutritional labels with dietary breakdowns. More importantly, people beginning to focus on heart-healthy foods should consider speaking with a dietician to create a realistic and balanced meal plan together.