“Fat” gets a bad rep and it’s unfair. It’s true that being overweight or having a high percentage of body fat can lead to a host of health problems. It’s also true that some types of dietary fat can contribute to high cholesterol and heart problems.
But not all fats are created equal. In fact, there is part of me that wishes dietary fats weren’t classified as fats at all. If dietary fats were more commonly known as lipids or oils, perhaps they wouldn’t have such a negative connotation.
Because the truth is that dietary fats can be very good for your heart. They can contribute to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. The key is all about making the right choices.
Just like there are good and bad types of cholesterol, there are good and bad types of dietary fats. “Bad” fats like trans fats saturated fats, when consumed too often, can contribute to high cholesterol.
On the other hand, good fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can lower overall cholesterol and benefit heart health, while boosting the level of “good” HDL cholesterol in your blood.
HDL cholesterol helps remove “bad” LDL cholesterol from arterial walls, thereby fighting atherosclerosis and improving heart health. Further, sources of “good” fats are also rich in a host of valuable nutrients, while playing an instrumental role in absorption.
So, where do you find these “good” fats? They are abundant in a host of foods. Monosaturated fats, which can improve blood cholesterol levels, are in:
• Olive oil
• Canola oil
• Peanut oil
• Non-hydrogenated margarine
• Some nuts (almonds, pistachio, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts)
Polyunsaturated fats (which include heart-healthy omega-3) are in:
• Cold-water fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, rainbow trout, salmon)
• Canola oil
• Omega-3 eggs
• Pine nuts
Although these fats are healthy, it’s not like you need to avoid saturated fats. The key is balancing the two. Eating more or just as many healthy fats as saturated ones may be able to produce some benefits.
There is some evidence, for example, that saturated fats—like those found in meat, dairy—are neutral and do not contribute to atherosclerosis. The same cannot be said for man-made trans fats, which are often found in processed foods.
So, if you’re looking for a tasty way to lower cholesterol, you can eat more fat instead of less. Just make sure you’re eating more of the good stuff than bad!