Do you know the difference between “good fat,” such as that derived from plants and seafood, and “bad fat,” often derived from animals? Based on research from the American Heart Association, here is what you need to know about the different fats in your diet to maintain optimal heart health.
Polyunsaturated Fat and Saturated Fat
“Good fat” refers to polyunsaturated fats, including Omega-3s and Omega-6s. “Bad fat,” on the other hand, refers to saturated fat, often derived from animals.
According to the AHA, consumption of animal or saturated fat from foods like beef, lard and dairy can lead to an increase in LDL cholesterol, or bad cholesterol. Conversely, polyunsaturated fat derived from plants like olives, avocados and walnuts has been shown to lower cholesterol.
Omega Fatty Acids
Commonly found in fish, Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to lower triglyceride levels and slightly lower blood pressure. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. The AHA recommends you consume five to 10 percent of your daily calories from these fatty acids.
“Both Omegas are essential fatty acids that have more than one double bond,” explains Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., distinguished professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Nutritional Sciences and an American Heart Association spokeswoman.
“Major sources of Omega-6s are vegetable oils. Omega-3s are plant derived and seafood derived. Current dietary guidance recommends consuming liquid vegetable oils,” she says. “They should be substituted for solid fats, including both animal fats and vegetable fats, such as tropical oils, including coconut, palm and palm kernel oil.”
To add more of these heart-healthy vegetable fats to your diet, Dr. Kris-Etherton suggests using the oils for salad dressings and for cooking fish, poultry, lean meats and vegetables.