Joanna Hayden, PhD, CHES

Based on the results of a rigorous review of the scientific research, The American Heart Association published an advisory this week in the journal Circulation  recommending replacement of saturated fats in the diet with poly-unsaturated and mono-saturated fats as this was found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as 30%, a result comparable to the reduction achieved with statins or cholesterol lowering drugs.

For the complete journal article: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2017/06/15/CIR.0000000000000510

For a summary of the article: https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_166625.html

Use this news

If you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, this information is for you!

Cholesterol is actually a wax- like substance that our livers make. We use it to make hormones and the walls of our cells.  Cholesterol by itself doesn’t mix well in our blood so, it attaches to a lipoprotein (fat and protein).  You know two of these, LDL or low density lipoprotein and HDL or high density lipoprotein. LDL or  ‘bad’ cholesterol is the one that sticks to the walls of our arteries and increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.  HDL or high density lipoprotein is the type that keeps our arteries clean by bringing cholesterol it back to the liver so it can be broken down.

Think of this like bags of garbage and garbage trucks. LDL is the bag of garbage you put in the street in front of your house on garbage day. HDL is the garbage truck. On garbage day, you put  bags of garbage (LDL) in the street in front of your house. The garbage truck (HDL)  comes along and picks up the bags and your street is clear. But,  if you put out more  garbage bags than the truck can fit, some bags are left in the street. If you do the same thing the next week, and the next, eventually your street will be blocked with garbage bags.  – i.e. you’ll have a heart attack. So, it makes sense to have enough garbage trucks (HDL) to pick up all the garbage bags (LDL). A good number is 1 garbage truck (HDL) for every 4 garbage bags (LDL).  More garbage trucks per garbage bag, the better. This is the HDL, LDL ratio you might have heard about. So, someone with a HDL:LDL ratio of 1 to 2 (one truck for every two bags) has less of a heart attack risk than someone with a 1 to 6 ratio (one truck for every 6 bags).

What does this have to do with saturated fat in the diet, you ask? A lot.  The liver uses saturated fat to make cholesterol - the more saturated fat we eat, the more cholesterol we make and the extra gets carried in the blood as LDL.  If we don’t have enough HDL to offset it, it collects in our arteries and increases our risk of heart attack and stroke.

Saturated fats are abundant in our typical American diets. They are in animal products (meats, full fat dairy, butter, cheese, ice cream, etc.) and some vegetable oils especially coconut and palm kernel oils. (Yes, coconut oil – see the journal article for studies on this.) What the results of the American Heart Association review found was when saturated fat in the diet is reduced,  LDL goes down and along with it cardiovascular disease risk. 

The American Heart Association recommends a saturated fat intake of about 13 grams a day for someone who eats around 2000 calories or between 5-6 % of the total number of calories. (To figure out how many grams of saturated fat is right for you do some simply math:
1. add up your daily calorie intake.
2. multiply by 5 or 6%
3. divide the number by 9 (fat = 9 calories per gram of food)
4. Now you have the number of grams you should aim for each day.

(If you eat 1500 calories, 6% = 90 calories or 10 grams of fat)

Saturated fat grams are listed on food labels, so it’s easy to count them up, just be mindful of the serving sizes. 

The Texas Heart Institute offers these suggestions for reducing your intake of saturated fat:

  1. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  2. Eat more fish and chicken. Substitute ground turkey or chicken for ground beef. Remove the skin from chicken before cooking.
  3. Eat leaner cuts of beef and pork, and trim as much visible fat as possible before cooking.
  4. Bake, broil, or grill meats; avoid frying. Avoid breaded meats and vegetables.
  5. Use fat-free or reduced-fat milk instead of whole milk. Instead of sour cream, try nonfat plain yogurt or a blend of yogurt and low-fat cottage cheese. Use low-fat cheeses.
  6. In recipes, use two egg whites instead of one whole egg.
  7. Avoid cream and cheese sauces, or make recipes with low-fat milk and cheese.
  8. Instead of chips, snack on pretzels or unbuttered popcorn.
  9. Limit hydrogenated fats (shortening, lard) and animal fats (butter, cream) if you can. Use liquid oils, particularly canola, olive, safflower, or sunflower.
  10. Read the nutrition labels on all products. Many "fat-free" products are very high in carbohydrates, which can raise your triglyceride levels.
  11. Compare the fat content of similar products. Do not be misled by terms like "light" and "lite."
  12. When eating in a restaurant, ask that the sauces and dressings be served on the side.
  13. Look for hidden fat. For example, refried beans may contain lard, or breakfast cereals may have significant amounts of fat.
  14. Try cooking with herbs, spices, lemon juice, etc., instead of butter or margarine.

            Use the chart below to help you choose healthier fats.



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