Not all fats are created equal. Eating foods that contain saturated fats can raise your blood cholesterol, particularly your LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. However, replacing those saturated fats in your diet with monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats actually helps to protect your heart!
Sources of Saturated Fats:
Fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, beef fat (tallow), lard, cream, butter, cheese, and other dairy products made from whole or reduced-fat milk, and tropical oils such as palm and coconut.
Sources of Monounsaturated Fats:
Avocado, nuts, olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, and sesame oil.
Sources of Polyunsaturated Fats:
Soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, walnuts, flaxseed, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and trout.
Even though mono- and poly-unsaturated fats are better for heart health, it’s important to remember that a little goes a long way. No matter what type, all fats contain nine calories per gram, while carbohydrates and protein contain just four calories per gram. Even though olive oil is more heart healthy than butter due to its lower saturated fat content, it is still a high-fat, high-calorie food. For example, one tablespoon of butter contains about 100 calories and 12 g of total fat, eight of which are saturated. One tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories and 14 g of total fat, 2 of which are saturated. Olive oil is clearly the healthier choice as it’s much lower in saturated fat, but you’ll still want to keep your portion size in check to avoid consuming too many calories.
The American Heart Association recommends that no more than 5% to 6% of calories should come from saturated fats. So if you eat 2,000 calories a day you should have no more than 11 to 13 g of saturated fat. In terms of total fat. no more than 20-35% of calories should come from fat daily, or 45 to 75 g. Your saturated fat intake is included as part of your total fat intake, not separate from it. When reading food labels, be sure to look at total fat, saturated fat, and serving size. If you’re eating double the serving size, you’re consuming double the amount of saturated fat.
So, what can you do to reduce your intake of saturated fat? Here are a couple suggestions and some recipes to try!
For Mexican night, replace your usual beef tacos with heart-healthy fish tacos! Fish are significantly lower in saturated fat and higher in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The recipe doesn’t call for cheese but does include heart- healthy fats from avocado. The blackening spice contains no sodium, unlike your typical store-bought taco seasonings.
Grilled Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa
380 calories, 11g fat, 2g saturated fat per serving
1. Clean and oil a grill or grill pan thoroughly. Preheat to medium-high.
2. Make the mango salsa by combining the mango, avocado, red onion, cilantro, and the juice of one lime. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Drizzle a light coating of oil over the fish, and rub on the blackening spice. Place the fish on the grill and cook, undisturbed, for 4 minutes. Carefully flip with a spatula and cook for another 4 minutes. Remove. Before turning off the grill, warm the tortillas directly on the surface for 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Divide the fish evenly among the warm tortillas, add a bit of cabbage, and spoon the salsa on top. Serve each taco with a wedge of lime and 1/2 cup of black beans spiked with cumin.
Using plant proteins such as beans and lentils instead of meat once or twice a week will help you to cut quite a bit of saturated fat out of your diet. An added bonus: plant proteins are high in fiber, antioxidants, and other nutrients in addition to being low in fat. Beans and lentils are also budget-friendly and easy to prepare. Be cautious of vegetarian recipes that call for large amounts of cheese, however, and remember you can always cut the amount in half or omit it altogether. Try these meatless recipes for dinner this week!
Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili
Makes 4 servings, about 2 cups each
300 calories, 8g fat, 1 g saturated fat per serving
Mexican Stuffed Poblanos
Serves: 4 (serving size: 1 poblano and 1/3 cup salsa)
307 calories, 11 g fat, 4 g saturated fat per serving
Kassi Swallow is a Registered Dietitian and nutrition consultant with Harrington HealthCare System. She is passionate about healthy cooking, and believes cooking at home is one key element to an overall healthily life. Kassi has an interest in, and largely adopts, a plant-based lifestyle when it comes to eating. Kassi is married and living in Oxford, MA. She can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org or at 508-909-7779.