Heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women.
Childhood obesity contributes to early high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Food choices and exercise beginning in childhood are important throughout life.
Changing behaviors over recent years has reduced heart disease but it remains the #1 killer.
The Mediterranean Diet is an excellent life diet that includes fruits, vegetables, fatty fish such as salmon, whole grains, foods rich in monounsaturated fatty acids such as avocados, olive oil and nuts.
Recent research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association reported testing a population of people ages 21-70 on each of three different diets. They found a reduction in bad (LDL) cholesterol levels when consuming one avocado/day.
Five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease.
A study at Brigham & Women’s Hospital examined the relationship between healthy fat intake and memory retention. Over 4 years, women on higher amounts of monounsaturated fats had better memory.
Intake of healthy fats contributes to both heart and brain health.
Your Heart: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease in Women, Men and Children
The Science of Fats
Dietary fat is a primary component of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. When fat consumption is high, the tendency to develop the disease early in life is increased and progresses with age. This section will provide information on types of fat, why some are more harmful than others, and which dietary choices are beneficial.
Monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated and Trans Fat
First of all, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are healthier than trans fats. They begin as oil, liquid at room temperature. The process of hydrogenation raises the melting point making oil become solid at room temperature, and turns oil into stick margarine. The hydrogenation process makes them unhealthy.
If oil is “partially hydrogenated,” the reaction process is stopped at the point where the product is soft like some brands of margarine marketed in plastic containers. Adding hydrogen makes the oil more resistant to spoilage, prolonging shelf life.
Many commercial baked goods contain trans fats. You may already understand what trans fats are because they are frequently in the news. Trans fats are bad fats because when consumed, they raise cholesterol. Found naturally in the fat of meat and dairy products, trans fats also form during the hydrogenation of healthful plant-based oil.
(Molecular discussion follows. Please skip the next 2 paragraphs if you are not interested in the chemistry of fats.)
By definition, monounsaturated fats contain only one molecular double bond in the fatty acid chain; polyunsaturated fats have more than one double bond. Fats are called trans or cis depending on the position of the double bonds. In the hydrogenation process both cis and trans fats are formed. The trans fat configuration is a unique partially hydrogenated fat in which the molecular configuration is in the trans position producing a straighter molecule. This results in a higher melting point. Basically, the hydrogenation process turns healthy plant-based oils into unhealthy fats that will raise blood lipid levels when consumed.
Saturated fats (example: lard) are fully saturated with hydrogen; no more hydrogen can bond. However, they are not called trans fats because their bonds can rotate (not locked in the cis or trans molecular configuration). Saturated fats are solid at room temperature.
♥ Olive oil is a primary monounsaturated oil source. Olive oil contains oleic acid which has a single cis double bond. Therefore it is a mono–single unsaturated fatty acid. Olives, avocados, sunflower seeds, peanuts, almonds, whole grains, popcorn and cashews are high oleic acid. Research shows an improvement in diabetic insulin levels and blood sugar control when olive oil is used. Remember oil is caloric. Even though it is healthier than butter, one tablespoonful of any fat equals 100 calories.
Polyunsaturated fat is divided into two types: omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Primary sources of omega-6s are soy, corn and safflower oil. Omega-3s are found in canola oil, flaxseed, walnuts and cold water fish. Soybean oil contains both omega-3 and omega-6.
When you eat trans fats your LDL goes up. That results in more “lard” in your arteries. In addition, trans fats may also lower your good cholesterol. You need to keep your consumption of trans fats as low as possible. The American Heart Associations recommends limiting intake to less than 1% of your total daily calories.
Be sure to read labels. Many processed foods contain trans fats. If a serving has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, the label may state zero. Some restaurants now advertise they are no longer using trans fats in deep frying. That is excellent news; however, any fried food contains significant amounts of oils and calories. Avoid all fried foods if you are on a calorie-restricted diet or have lipid abnormalities.
Some of the common commercial foods containing trans fats are: microwave popcorn, cake, cookies, pie, margarine, frosting and coffee creamers. If you buy commercial items, choose those containing zero trans fat. Specifically avoid partially hydrogenated oils and shortening.
Denmark was the first country to ban tans fats from foods. In 2008, California became the first state to ban restaurant chains from using trans fats for cooking; New York City and Chicago followed suit. More recently, five additional states have joined in, as have cruise ship lines and hotel chains. As a country, along with banning smoking in public places and the many Quit Smoking campaigns, we are now taking steps to change food choices to help overcome our heart disease crisis.
Cutting both trans fats and saturated fat from your diet is very important. Combine this modification with eating only lean meat and adding omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Making these choices places you on the right track toward heart health.
♥ If you need to cook with oil, use mono-unsaturated products such as olive oil, peanut and canola oils or polyunsaturated oils. If your LDL and total cholesterol levels are high and you are overweight, avoid fatty meat, eat few egg yolks, avoid cheese and whole milk products. Consider eating veggie egg white only omelets.
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For Heart Health and Weight Control Avoid Saturated Fat:
Animal fat contributes to heart disease and obesity. Eating fried foods and fatty meat including hamburger, steaks, prime rib, rib-eye and T-bone cuts all contain significant calories and fat. Even when grilled, these are not good choices if you are trying to reduce your fat and calorie intake.
Choose lean cuts such as sirloin, and remove all visible fat from all cuts of meat. Pork loin without fat and bone can be a healthy choice. Remove all skin and fat from poultry.
Broil, bake and boil meats. Frying and deep frying any food is not recommended for health reasons.
For Brain Health and General Health Choose to Eat Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fat:
Avocados are nutritious and contain monounsaturated healthy fat. A whole small avocado contains about 250 calories, less than most meat servings. Healthy monounsaturated fats are also found in olive oil, peanut oil, hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds.
Best wishes for healthy living.
Betty and Bev
See our women’s health blog lipsticklogic.com for addition health information.