How to Eat Heart Healthy Fats

It is now well-known that diabetes and heart disease are undeniably linked. In fact, diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease, and people with diabetes are at risk for heart disease. One way to prevent and/or manage heart disease is to eat healthfully. You will be glad to know heart-healthy eating is quite similar to healthy-eating for diabetes, which includes:

  • At least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
  • An accent on whole grain breads and cereals.
  • At least 2 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy foods a day.
  • No more than 2 servings of 3 to 4 ounces of meats and meat substitutes (meat, seafood, poultry, cheese) per day.
  • Eating less total fat and choosing fats that are heart healthy.

Goal: Eat less total fat (about 25-35% of your calories). All fats contain varying amounts of several types of fats – both healthy and not so healthy. If you eat less total fat, you also eat less saturated fat and cholesterol.

“Eat less fat” is a message you’ve heard shouted for years. Lowering your fat intake to 25% to 35% of your calories is still important. The message today is to prevent and manage both diabetes and heart disease by eating heart healthy fats. And here’s how to eat heart healthy fats:

  1. Use less butter, margarine, oil, salad dressing, mayonnaise, cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, and the like. Take advantage of the reduced fat and low-fat versions of these foods.
  2. Eat fried foods once in a while (less than once a month).
  3. Prepare foods using low fat methods: broiling, baking, braising, barbecuing, grilling, sautéing, and steaming.

Goal: Eat less saturated fat. For people with diabetes, saturated fat should be less than 10% of calories unless LDL cholesterol is greater than 100 mg/dL. In this case, saturated fat should be less than 7% of total calories (see chart on the next page). Saturated fat raises blood cholesterol.

  1. Eat smaller (3 oz.) portions of cooked meat and meat substitutes. Prepare them in low-fat ways such as broiling, baking, grilling, and steaming.
  2. Limit cheese and/or use reduced fat and part-skim cheeses.
  3. Use fat-free and low-fat dairy foods such as milk, yogurt, and cheese.
  4. Opt for a heart healthy liquid, or tub margarine, or a spread rather than butter.
  5. Limit the amount of coconut, palm, and palm kernel oil you eat. These are saturated fats in processed foods. Check the ingredient list for these fats.

Goal: Eat less cholesterol. Cholesterol (in foods) raises blood cholesterol.

  1. Limit egg yolks to no more than 3 pieces a week. Use egg whites or egg substitutes instead.
  2. Limit foods high in cholesterol, such as organ meats and shellfish.
  3. Follow the first 4 how to’s under eat less saturated fat (above). They lower cholesterol intake, too.

Goal: Eat more monounsaturated fats. They help lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and raise HDL (good cholesterol).

  1.  Buy only canola, peanut, and olive oil. Use these highly monounsaturated fats for everyday needs. When you can, use one of these oils in place of margarine.
  2.  Make your own salad dressing with canola or olive oil.
  3.  Toss a few nuts (almonds, macadamias, pistachios, peanuts, pecans) onto salads, stir-fries, casseroles, hot or cold cereal. But don’t forget nuts are loaded with calories.
  4.  Enjoy avocado on a salad or sandwich.
  5.  Enjoy a few olives as a condiment, on a salad, or in a dish.

Goal: Eat more omega-3 polyunsaturated fats – they help prevent blood from clotting and sticking to artery walls, causing them to narrow.

  1. Eat more plant sources of omega-3 fats: ground flax seed on salads, hot or cold cereal. Or use flax seed, walnuts, or walnut oil in and on salads, cereals, or casseroles.
  2. Eat more animal sources of omega-3 fats like fatty fish-salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and herring.

Goal: Limit trans fats. Trans fats are formed in the process of hydrogenating fats. They could raise blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, and lower HDL cholesterol.

  1. Purchase tub margarine or a spread that is low or free of trans fats.
  2. Read the ingredient list of processed foods, such as margarine, snack foods, chips, crackers, and cookies. Limit the foods you purchase with hydrogenated and/or partially hydrogenated oils.
  3. Minimize the amount of fried restaurant foods you eat. The fat they fry in may contain trans fats.

Goal: Use margarine with plant sterol or stanol esters to lower LDL cholesterol.

  1. Choose 2 to 3 servings a day of a margarine-like spread containing plant stanol esters or plant sterol esters.
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