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Eating For Cardiovascular Health


UPDATED: Thursday July 5, 2012 10:58 AM

What are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats?

Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat are both unsaturated fats. “Poly” means many unsaturated chemical bonds and “mono” means one unsaturated chemical bond. These unsaturated fats are often found in liquid vegetable oils.

Both types of unsaturated fats may help lower your blood cholesterol level when used in place of saturated fat in your diet. Remember to be moderate your intake of all types of fat.  Poly- or monounsaturated oils should be used in limited amounts in place of fats with high saturated fat content, such as lard or hydrogenated shortenings.  By substituting monounsaturated fat in your diet for saturated and polyunsaturated fats you may be able to keep HDL (good) cholesterol levels high and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels low. Overall the highest intake of fat should be from the monounsaturated type.

Tips for replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats: 

Use oils containing monounsaturated fat like olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil, instead of oils high in saturated fat like coconut oil and palm oil. Use oils high in polyunsaturated fats like corn, soybean, safflower, sunflower, and cottonseed oils instead of coconut oil, palm oil, or hydrogenated vegetable fats.  Use liquid oils instead of butter, lard, or hardened vegetable shortening.  Eat foods high in unsaturated fats like fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna) instead of meats high in saturated fat. Incorporate foods high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats like avocados, nuts, and olive oil into your salads instead of using products high in saturated fats like mayonnaise based dressings.

Trans Fat - Foods high in trans-fat also raise blood cholesterol. Foods with the words “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils” in their ingredient list are likely to be high in trans-fat. Baked goods, snack foods, fried foods, margarines, and shortenings often contain trans fats.

Tips for Reducing Trans Fat Intake

Look for processed foods made with un-hydrogenated oil rather than hydrogenated oil or saturated fat. If it doesn’t say “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated,” it is un-hydrogenated fat.  Also, look for trans-fat information on the Nutrition Facts label and choose products with no trans-fat added.

Courtesy of the YMCA.

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