Tag Archives: heart health

The skinny on fats

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Earlier this year, a study challenged the long-held belief that eating a diet low in saturated fats was bad. Combining the results of many previous studies, it concluded that low consumption of saturated fats and high consumption of polyunsaturated fats (the current diet recommended by the American Heart Association) did not actually lower risk of heart disease. How can that be?

First, the article was not done very well and has drawn a lot of criticism. The details are very technical and beyond the purpose of this blog. We will just leave it with the opinion that their conclusions may not be the most accurate.

But the results do remind us to look more closely at individual food choices when replacing saturated fat. Research has documented that replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates is not beneficial to health, but replacing them with mono- or polyunsaturated fats is. So, we don’t necessarily need to eat a diet lower in total fat. We need to eat a diet with a different mix of fats.

How do we do that?

-Replace butter or margarine with oils when possible. Olive oil, canola oil, and other vegetable oils are a better choice.

-Nuts can be a good choice of healthy fats. Walnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts, and hazelnuts all seem to be heart healthy.

-Avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fats. They also are great sources of fiber, antioxidants, and plant sterols which can also be beneficial for heart health.

-While eating carbohydrates is ok, try to keep it in control. I like to think of dividing the plate into quarters and keeping carbohydrates to one quarter of the plate.

The bottom line is fat in general is not as bad as we used to think. The most important thing is keeping the proportion of types of fats in balance.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Fish Friday

In a recent post, I recommended fish as a heart-healthy substitute for beef and pork.  Fish is a great source of protein that is low in saturated fat but it is also high in omega-3 fatty acids.  Eating a diet higher in omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation, including the inflammation that is associated with heart disease.  Omega-3s have also been shown to make LDL, the “bad” cholesterol”, more light and fluffy.  These lighter LDL are less likely to build up as the plaque that leads to heart disease.

Because of it’s health benefits, the American Heart Association recommends eating at least 2 servings (3.5 ounces each) of fish each week.  (Fried fish doesn’t count.  Sorry, Long John Silvers.)  Some fish high in omega-3s are salmon, tuna, lake trout, and herring.

Admittedly, fish is very divisive.  People either love it or hate it.    If you are in the hate it category, here are some tips for eating fish:

-Try a different fish.  Each fish has a slightly different flavor and texture.  Just because you didn’t like one, you may really like another.

-Fresh fish will not have the odor that frozen fish often has.  Often, the odor turns people off before they taste it.

-Try a new sauce or seasoning.  Spices and acid (lemon) can brighten the flavor of fish.

If you are worried about mercury, you can reduce your exposure by eating a variety of fish and avoiding the fish with the highest levels of mercury, such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel.  Pregnant women and children should avoid high mercury fish and consume no more than 12 ounces of low mercury fish each week.  In general, however, for most middle-aged adults, the benefits of eating fish well outweigh the risks.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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