Easy Ways to Eat for Your Heart

Some of the right kind of fat is good for you

Woman cooking in the kitchen

A healthy diet makes for a healthier heart. You may think you need to avoid fat altogether, but fats are an important part of a healthy diet. They help store energy, keep you warm, and protect your vital organs. They also support the immune system to keep you from getting sick. But too much fat can lead to heart disease, obesity, and other conditions. The kind of fat we eat and the amount we eat make a difference.

Good fats
Monounsaturated fats improve cholesterol levels in the blood, which can lower the risk of heart disease. Some studies show that these fats may also help keep blood sugar steady. Monounsaturated fats provide nutrients your body needs. Good sources include almonds, sesame seeds, avocados, peanut butter, and olive and canola oils. Try cooking with plant-based oils instead of butter, margarine, or lard.

Polyunsaturated fats can also improve blood cholesterol levels, lowering heart disease risk. They may also help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Good sources include soybean and sunflower oil, walnuts, and tofu. Omega-3 fats, which may be good for heart health, are also in this category. They are found in some types of fish, such as salmon, trout, and mackerel.

Bad fats
Saturated fats raise your total cholesterol levels, as well as bad (LDL) cholesterol levels. This can raise your risk of heart disease. Limit your intake of saturated fats to no more than 10% of your total calories each day. Try to avoid animal products that are high in saturated fat. Limit the amount of butter, sour cream, ice cream, and red meat that you eat.

Trans fats are considered the worst fats. They raise bad cholesterol levels and lower good ones. They provide no nutritional value. Stay away from packaged foods like crackers and cookies that contain partially hydrogenated oils. Fried foods are often cooked in this kind of oil. Avoid trans fats as much as possible.

The right amount
Total fat intake should be 25% to 35% of total daily calories, according to the American Heart Association. On a daily diet of 2,000 calories, that’s 56 to 78 grams of fat. Keep saturated fat to less than 7% of daily calories. On a daily diet of 2,000 calories, that’s less than 16 grams.

Watch the Calories
Remember that even healthy fats are high in calories. One tablespoon of olive oil is 119 calories.