When following a low saturated fat and cholesterol diet, enjoy an abundance of grains, vegetables, and fruits, which are all naturally low in saturated fat and free of dietary cholesterol. Choose a variety of lean meats, skinless poultry, low fat and nonfat dairy foods, and heart-healthy fats and oils. This chart can help you make food selections that are kind to your heart.
Introduction to Low Saturated, Low Cholesterol Diets
Understand the basics
Eating too much saturated fat and dietary cholesterol in your diet can raise the amount of total cholesterol, and more importantly, the LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol carrier form of cholesterol in your blood. LDL cholesterol is also known as the "bad" cholesterol as a high amount in your blood can increase your risk of heart disease. LDL cholesterol contributes to the buildup of cholesterol and other debris (also known as plague) along the lining of the walls of your arteries.
This buildup can cause your arteries to narrow and reduce the flow of nutrient-and oxygen-rich blood to your heart, as well as other parts of your body. If your heart is deprived of adequate amounts of blood, a heart attack can occur. Even though both saturated fat and dietary cholesterol can raise your LDL cholesterol, saturated fat is the bigger dietary culprit.
Since your diet can play such an important role in helping lower the "bad" LDL cholesterol, it is not surprising that many individuals have come to realize that they can fight heart disease with a knife and fork.
What Is a Low Saturated Fat, Low Cholesterol Diet?
A heart-healthy, low saturated fat, low cholesterol diet is one that minimizes these substances in the diet in an attempt to lower your blood cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. When following a low saturated fat, low cholesterol diet, the saturated fat in your diet should contribute no more than 10 percent* of your daily calorie intake.
You should also keep the amount of dietary cholesterol that you eat to less than 300 milligrams daily. The chart below can help you determine the upper limits for both saturated fat and dietary cholesterol based on your daily calorie needs.
*Note: Some individuals who are at a high risk for heart disease or presently have heart disease may need to keep their saturated fat intake to under 7 percent of their daily calories. Always check with your health professional for personalized advice.
The Pros and Cons
One of the benefits of following a low saturated, low cholesterol diet is that you are not alone in your conscientious food choices.
In fact, everyone that you are dining with should also be eating a heart- healthy diet. Since heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, all Americans who are 2 years of age and older should be watching their saturated fat and cholesterol intake for the sake of their hearts, according to the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The strategy for minimizing your intake of these dietary components is fairly straightforward. In general, you need to eat lean and eat less (animal foods, that is). Since saturated fat is most abundantly found in fatty cuts of meat and in the skin on poultry, using leaner varieties of these foods and eating less by limiting your servings to approximately six ounces daily, will automatically reduce the saturated fat in your diet.
Since dietary cholesterol is ONLY found in animal foods, keeping a six-ounce, upper limit on the amount of meat and poultry you eat daily will also harness the amount of dietary cholesterol you eat. While high fat dairy foods such as whole milk, cheese, and many gourmet ice creams can provide a substantial amount of saturated fat as well as dietary cholesterol, using the low fat and nonfat versions of these foods will dramatically reduce both of these dietary substances. In essence, when you eat lean and less meat and poultry with skin and use only lean dairy foods, you will automatically curtail both your saturated fat and dietary cholesterol intake.
Another advantage of a heart-healthy diet is that, in general, foods from plant sources have negligible amounts of saturated fat and ALL are free of dietary cholesterol. So while animal foods need to be curtailed on a low saturated fat, low cholesterol diet, you can have a field day with plant-based grains, fruits, and vegetables as long as you dont also need to restrict your daily calories to manage your weight.
While palm, palm kernel, and coconut oils are the only foods from plant sources that are extremely high in saturated fat, all the other vegetable oils arent. Feel free to enjoy olive, canola, soybean, and corn oil at your meals as these have much less saturated fat and are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fat in comparison.
Since it is mandatory that both the amount of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol in a food be listed on the Nutrition Fact Panel on the label (see the label below), it is relatively easy to keep tract of your intake:
The Nutrition Fact Panel chart above provides an instant reminder of the upper limit of saturated fat and cholesterol that you should be consuming in your diet. The percent of the Daily Value that is listed on the upper portion of the food label is yet another way to gauge how much saturated fat and cholesterol are in the foods that you buy and eat. If a serving of a food item provides 20 percent or more of these substances, it is considered a "high" source. If it provides 5 percent or less of the Daily Value, it is considered a "low" source.
A quick glance at the Nutrition Fact Panel above tells you that a serving of this food provides 25 percent of the Daily Value for saturated fat, making it a hefty source. Since the amount of dietary cholesterol in a serving is 10 percent of the Daily Value, this food item isnt considered a "high" source, but then again, it isnt considered a "low" source either. Limiting the amount of foods that are high, or provide 20 percent or more of the Daily Value, in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol will help you limit these in your diet.
The good news is that there really isnt a downside to consuming a low saturated fat, low cholesterol diet. While you need some unsaturated fat for a healthy diet, you dont need to eat a morsel of saturated fat. Your daily dietary fat requirements can be easily met by enjoying foods that provide predominately heart healthy unsaturated fat, such as olive, canola, and soybean oils, nuts, salad dressings, and mayonnaise.
The same good news holds true for dietary cholesterol. While cholesterol is needed in your body to make important substances, such as certain hormones and vitamin D, your body can make all the cholesterol that it needs. You dont have to rely on your diet to provide any cholesterol.
- By Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN. Blake is a nutrition professor at Boston University and a nationally known writer, lecturer, and nutrition expert
There's an increasing amount of focus these days on omega 3 and omega 6 oils. In fact omega 3 and omega 6 oils are instrumental in benefiting a number of health issues including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, heart disease, immune system weakness, mental disorders, attention deficit, and skin problems.
Over 2,000 scientific studies have confirmed numerous health problems associated with Omega-3 deficiencies. Because our bodies cannot produce polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega 3 and omega 6) we must consciously add these to our diets.
There is, however, important information about these oils that is not commonly addressed. As more and more attention is being placed on EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids) and their diverse health benefits, it becomes increasingly crucial that you are aware of that in-depth information.
Omega 3 works best when taken in combination with omega 6. However, care must be taken to consume a correct ratio of both. In fact, a severe imbalance can leave you prone to chronic diseases. It is estimated that 60% of North Americans consume much more Omega 6 than is required and 95% of North Americans are lacking in the consumption of Omega 3.
Although omega 6 is necessary, too much of it has a negative effect on the efficiency of Omega 3, and can actually be harmful.
Because of the changing diets of North Americans and because a significant amount of the fish we eat are now being farmed as opposed to being born in their natural environment, the amount of omega 3 produced in the "fresh" fish we eat is substantially decreased. There is a special ingredient in nature that man simply cannot duplicate.
Consequently, our diets contain far less omega-3s and far more of omega-6s. Although the Government of Canada recently recommended individuals between the ages of 25-49 should take 1.5 grams of Omega 3 fatty acids daily, the average person actually consumes less than 20% of this required daily dosage.
Remembering that balance is important, you should be considering a ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 of no less than 4:1 (4 times the amount of omega 6 to that of omega 3) and no more than 10:1 (10 times the amount of omega 6 to that of omega 3). According to Nutrition, Health & Heart Disease, about 2 teaspoons of flaxseed, linseed or fish oil, or 2 tablespoons canola or soy oil is a recommended amount of omega 3.
The NIH (National Institute of Health) and the NHLBI (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) have seen numerous studies involving doses ranging from 3 grams to 15 grams of omega 3 per day and acknowledge the health benefits of incorporating this essential fatty acid into a daily diet.
If you decide to enhance your diet with omega 3 through supplementation, I encourage you to choose flaxseed or linseed oil. These are both very high in omega 3. Fresh fish oil is also a good choice, but it could be much higher in calories depending on the type of fish.
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