WWhen it comes to improving your cholesterol numbers, the popular line of thinking goes something like this: “Eat less of this. Don’t eat that. Never, ever even think of looking at those!”
Now what if we told you that not all fats are created equally? In fact, eating more of certain everyday foods may help tip the numbers in your favor.
The Benefits of Good Fats
Health and nutrition experts have begun referring to certain good-for-you foods as good fats. They’re still fats, but they count as good because they fall into the category of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Studies have shown that these types of fats (found mainly in cold water fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils) may help lower your odds of developing heart disease and other health conditions.
These fats are also sources of omega-3 fatty acids (part of the polyunsaturated fats family), which your body needs to build cells and control blood clotting. Omega-3s are also considered an important part of a heart healthy diet. Good sources of omega-3 include cold-water fish, such as salmon and tuna.
Know Your Bad Fats
Trans and saturated fats remain the problematic fats, and you’re wise to carefully watch your intake of these types.Your daily saturated fat intake should be less than 7 percent of your total calories per day, and your trans fat intake should be less than 1 percent, according to the American Heart Association. For most people, that means consuming 15 grams or less of saturated fat each day. But if you can take steps to think more about what you can eat (like guacamole made with heart-healthy avocado, trail mix with nuts and seeds, and a grilled salmon steak) rather than what you should eat less of, suddenly a healthy eating plan is more than doable -- it’s delicious!
Heart-Healthy Fats You Need to Eat
Keep in mind that all fats -- healthy or otherwise -- have a fair amount of calories (about 9 calories per gram), so aim to keep your calories from fats to no more than 25 percent to 35 percent of your total calories (about 56 g to 77 g per day based on a 2,000 calorie diet). Here are some good sources of heart-healthy fats:
In addition to heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which help lower LDL cholesterol, avocados include other heart-healthy compounds, such as soluble fiber, vitamin E, folate and potassium.
Flaxseed not only has heart-healthy fiber, it also contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid.
3. Fatty fish
Replacing foods high in saturated fat with those abundant in the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon, herring and sardines may help support healthy cholesterol.
4. Olives and olive oil
Olives and their oil are abundant in beneficial monounsaturated fats. They also contain phytochemicals like polyphenols, associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Walnuts have the highest level of omega-3 fats of any nut. Just one small handful (about 14 walnut halves) supplies 2.6 g of omega-3 fats.
All fats -- healthy or otherwise -- contain a fair amount of calories (about 9 calories per gram), so aim to keep your fat calories to no more than 25 percent to 35 percent of total calories.