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The Heart of the Matter: Healthy and Unhealthy Fats

By Maryn Hayward, Alamance County Lifestyle Coach


Many of you know that February is Heart Health Month…and yes,Valentine’s day too, but the “heart” of the matter is your physical heart. If you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, you are more likely to have problems with your heart or arteries. Therefore, extra care needs to be given to your heart. There are many ways to keep your heart healthy, from exercising 150 minutes a week, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol, and eating healthy foods.

The best foods for your heart are low in calories, salt, and fats and are high in fiber, water, vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Here, we’re going to discuss the fats found in your food and which ones you should avoid and limit since fats have a direct link to how well your heart functions. Our bodies need a certain amount of fat because it gives us energy and helps us absorb vitamins. However, fat is also very high in calories and has the most calories than any other food. In order to reach or stay at a healthy weight, you need to limit fat. So how do I know which fats to avoid and which to limit,you ask? Let’s take a look.

Unhealthy fats to avoid:

  1. Saturated fat. Where you find high amounts of it: chicken & turkey skin, chocolate, coconut oil, fatback & salt pork, gravy, high-fat dairy products (whole or 2%), high-fat meats (think anything that doesn’t fly), lard, and butter- or cream-based sauces.
  2. Trans fat. Where you find high amounts of it: processed foods made with hydrogenated oil (cookies, chips, & cakes), shortening, stick margarine.
  3. Cholesterol. Where you find high amounts of it: chicken & turkey skin, egg yolks, high-fat dairy products, high-fat meats, and liver and other organ meats.

Healthy fats to limit:

  1. Monounsaturated fat. Where you find high amounts of it: avocado, canola oil, nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, & peanuts), olives & olive oil, peanut butter & peanut oil, and sesame seeds.
  2. Polyunsaturated fat. Where you find high amounts of it: corn oil, oil-based salad dressings, pumpkin & sunflower seeds, soft margarine, soybean oil, sunflower oil, walnuts.
  3. Omega-3 fatty acids. Where you find high amounts of it: albacore tuna, herring, rainbow trout, salmon, sardines, walnuts, and flaxseed & flaxseed oil.

That list might seem overwhelming but you don’t have to change your whole diet today! It’s all about small changes over time that add up to a healthy lifestyle. Stay tuned for our next post on how to cook healthy with and without fat!