Not all fats are bad. Foods containing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive or canola oil, nuts, fatty fish and flaxseed, may be beneficial to your heart. Choosing these healthier types of fat may be more important than restricing the amount of fat you consume each day.
A Mediterranean-style diet is a way of eating that provides moderate levels of monounsaturated fat mainly from olive oil. This diet is also low in saturated fat and includes fish as well as many fruits and vegetables. Eating this way has been shown to have a protective effect on the heart.
Polyunsaturated fats are also important for heart health. Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat found mainly in fatty, cold-water fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring) and some plant sources, such as flaxseed. Omega 3 fatty acids help prevent heart rhythm problems in certain people, which may reduce the risk of sudden death. They also help decrease triglycerides (another type of fat circulating in the blood), reduce blood pressure slightly and reduce blood clotting.
Tips for Adding Healthier Fats to Your Diet
Try these tips to replace unhealthy saturated fat with healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats:
- Use only liquid oils, such as olive oil and canola oil for baking and cooking needs.
- Eat at least two 3.5-ounce servings of fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, herring) per week.
- Eat a one-ounce serving of nuts at least 4 times per week to replace snacks high in saturated and trans fat.
- Add a teaspoon or two of freshly ground flaxseed to recipes for baked goods, yogurt or homemade fruit smoothies to boost omega-3 fatty acid intake.