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Lourdes Cardiologist Gives the Skinny on Fats

Every year, about 715,000 Americans  have a heart attack, and about  795,000 Americans have a stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Knowing your “good” and “bad” fats can help you lower your risk of heart attack and stroke, says Scott Gabler, MD, cardiologist at Lourdes.

“While everyone needs some fat in their diet for energy and good health, eating too much of the wrong types can help pack on the weight and increase the risk of developing major health problems.”

Dr. Gabler explains that there are two types of fats. “Good fats–monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats–when eaten in moderation can help lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk for heart disease,” he said. “The bad guys–saturated and trans fats–can block blood vessels important to major organs such as your heart or brain, which increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

“Trans and saturated fats increase your bad cholesterol (LDL), while at the same time lowering good cholesterol (HDL) and increasing triglyceride levels. This makes your arteries more likely to develop plaque which can lead to severe vessel disease.”

Knowing which food contains which type of fat can help you make the right decision when shopping at the supermarket, cooking and eating out, said Dr. Gabler.

First, the good:

  • Foods high in  unsaturated fats  include vegetable oils (olive, canola, sunflower, soy and corn), nuts, seeds and fish.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, one type of polyunsaturated fat, have been found to have particularly heart-healthy benefits. Omega-3s are found in fatty fish like salmon, trout, catfish and mackerel, as well as in flaxseed and walnuts. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fatty fish each week.
  • Monounsaturated fats  are typically a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, a nutrient missing in many Americans’ diets. Monounsaturated fats are found in olives, avocados, hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, sesame and pumpkin seeds.

Now, the bad:

  • Saturated fats  are found in foods from animals, including red meat, bacon, lunchmeat, poultry skin, butter, eggs, whole milk and cheeses, and any other food made with whole milk.
  • Trans fats and hydrogenated fats  are found in hard margarine, shortening, and foods that contain partially hydrogenated fats added during processing, including fries, cakes, doughnuts, crackers, cookies, microwave popcorn and packaged snack foods.

“Be a good label reader,” said Dr. Gabler. “You should be able to find all the information you need on the nutrition facts panel in order to make healthy choices. You can easily find foods with low total, saturated and trans fats. Unfortunately, if there is less than 500 milligrams of trans fat in a serving, it is not required to be reported. This can lead to eating much more trans fats than we think.”

Dr. Gabler suggests limiting fat intake to about 30 percent of your total daily calories. For a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s 65 grams of total fat and no more than 20 grams of saturated fat. He also suggests these general tips for maintaining a heart-healthy diet:

  • Eat more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, seafood and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
  • Replace solid fats like butter with moderate amounts of vegetable oils.
  • Instead of a having a big steak with fries for dinner, eat a smaller portion (3 to 4 ounces) of lean meat-or a fish like salmon-with brown rice and a vegetable or salad.
  • Avoid fried fast foods-they contain saturated fat and often trans fat, too

 

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