Just enough of the right sort

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1 Fats and the heart

2 Just enough of the right sort We all need some fat in our diets, just enough of the right sort to keep our bodies and hearts healthy. In fact, a fat free diet isn t recommended because our bodies need some fat for: energy storage insulation the synthesis of some hormones production of bile salts and vitamin D proper cell function, including brain and skin cells helping the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) There are also two fatty acids our body cannot make, alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3) and linoleic acid (omega 6) and these Essential Fatty Acids must come from our diet. The effect of fats on the heart Too much Eating more calories than you need, whether as carbohydrate, protein or fat, will lead to weight gain, but eating too much fat makes this more likely as 1 gram of fat provides 9 calories, more than double the calories of 1 gram of protein or carbohydrate. Being overweight, especially when the excess weight is carried around your middle, increases the risk of developing heart disease by putting the heart under strain, increasing blood pressure and increasing your risk of developing diabetes, a risk factor for heart disease. Sorting out our fat habits, how much and the type of fat we eat, can have a big impact on our risk of heart disease. The fate of fat Most of the fat in our food is found as triglycerides that are digested and absorbed in the small intestine. Triglycerides are then packaged up with cholesterol into little units called lipoproteins and transported in the blood to where they are needed. The two lipoproteins that affect heart health are LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) and HDL (High Density Lipoprotein). Wrong type Most of the cholesterol in your body is made by the liver, with only a small proportion coming directly from your diet. How much cholesterol your liver makes and how it is transported, whether as LDL or HDL cholesterol, depends on the type of fat you eat. High levels of LDL cholesterol, sometimes known as bad cholesterol, and low levels of HDL cholesterol, otherwise known as good cholesterol, in the blood encourage cholesterol to be deposited in artery walls causing a gradual build up of fatty plaque that can narrow arteries and, in some cases, cause them to block. This can restrict the blood flow to the heart, starving it of oxygen, and lead to angina or even a heart attack. Some fats are also thought to increase inflammation in the artery wall and make blood clots more likely to form.

3 Your guide to the world of fats Get to know the good, the bad and the ugly fats and how they fit into a healthy heart diet. Good sources of monounsaturated fats: olive oil rapeseed oil avocados almonds walnuts hazelnuts olives seeds peanut oil The good Monounsaturated fats Monounsaturated fats are good for the heart as they can help to lower LDL levels in the blood without affecting HDL levels. They are also thought to reduce inflammation of the artery walls and the risk of blood clotting. Choose monounsaturated fats where possible, but remember all fats are high in calories, so don t overdo it. Polyunsaturated fats Polyunsaturated fats are slightly less healthy for the heart than monounsaturated fats as they lower LDL cholesterol but also lower HDL cholesterol. However eating some polyunsaturated fat will ensure you are getting the Essential Fatty Acids omega 3 and omega 6 that your body needs. Omega 6, the most common polyunsaturated fat, is present in many foods (meat, dairy products, fish, plants) and at particularly high levels in sunflower, sesame and corn oils, soybeans and many nuts and seeds. Omega 3 polyunsaturated fats are very good for the heart and arteries and may help to reduce the risk of developing heart disease by: decreasing the risk of arrhythmias (disturbances in the heart rhythm) lowering blood cholesterol decreasing the risk of blood clots slightly lowering blood pressure Our diets provide us with plenty of omega 6 fat, so focus on boosting your intake of omega 3 fats, especially the omega 3 found in oily fish as it is the most beneficial to the heart and body. Good sources of omega 3: mackerel sardines herring fresh and tinned salmon trout fresh tuna fish oil rapeseed oil flaxseed leafy green vegetables tofu soya beans walnuts

4 The bad Saturated fat Saturated fat is generally solid at room temperature and mainly comes from animal sources. Eating too much saturated fat is bad news for the heart and arteries as it increases LDL bad cholesterol levels and blood clotting, so increasing your risk of developing heart disease. Cut down on saturated fats to reduce your risk of getting heart disease. High in sats: bacon ham pork lamb beef lard butter ghee hard margarine cheese whole milk other dairy products palm oil coconut oil Hidden sats pastry cakes chocolate biscuits pies meat products crisps The ugly Trans fats Trans fats, also known as hydrogenated fats, are produced during hydrogenation, a food manufacturing process where oils are modified at high temperatures to change them from a liquid state to a solid. Trans fats are trouble for your arteries because their effects in the body are as bad as, if not worse than, saturated fats. Trans fats raise LDL bad cholesterol, lower HDL good cholesterol levels, increase blood lipid levels, inflammation and increase abdominal fat deposition. Many of the foods that contain trans fats are often high in saturated fat and sugar, so by avoiding them your heart will doubly benefit. Potential trans fat sources: processed foods fish fingers popcorn doughnuts some margarines chips from fast food outlets chicken nuggets tortilla chips flour tortillas crackers bought pies (meat & fruit) sausage rolls pastries cookies muffins vegetable suet shortening

5 Eat the right fats It is important to have some fat in your diet, but you only need small amounts. Just make sure you choose the right ones for your heart. Cooking tips Eat red meat only occasionally and pad your stews and casseroles out with vegetables and pulses Choose lean cuts of meat or trim off any visible fat. Drain off any excess fat during cooking Grill, boil, bake or poach instead of frying If you need to use some fat, go for olive oil or rapeseed oil. Olive oil loses some of its properties when heated, so use rapeseed oil for stir-frying and other high temperature cooking Use a spray oil or a spoon to limit the amount of fat you use. A good non-stick pan can help you get away with no fat at all Never re-use cooking oil as the fats in the oil can oxidise when reheated repeatedly and make them damaging to arteries Use healthier oils when making your own salad dressing. Try flavoured oils such as olive oil infused with chillies, walnut or sesame oil to get more taste while using less. Remember that salad dressings are high in fat so always use them sparingly Bake your own cakes and pastries using healthier fats. For every 4oz (100g) of butter or margarine, try using 5 tbsps (75ml) of rapeseed or olive oil instead. Prune purée, apple sauce and mashed banana can also be used to replace fat in recipes If you choose something high in fat for a meal combine it with low-fat foods and watch your overall fat intake for the rest of the day Fat wise shopping Grill, boil, bake or poach instead of frying Read the labels to check for total and saturated fat levels and choose lower fat versions when you can. Trans fats are also called hydrogenated vegetable oil so look for them on the ingredients list Avoid processed food. Eating fresh foods and making your own treats means you can control the amount of fat used Choose low-fat dairy products; fromage frais and yoghurt make good replacements for cream or soured cream in many recipes Include two portions of oily fish a week, maybe one for lunch and one for an evening meal. If you don t eat fish, choose other sources of omega 3 like green leafy vegetables, avocados, pumpkin seeds and flaxseed oil A palmful of unsalted nuts or seeds makes a great snack too and is much better for you than biscuits, chocolate or crisps Quick guide to fat labelling total fat* saturated fat* low less than 3g less than 1.5g high more than 17.5g more than 5g * grams (g) per 100 grams food Food Standards Agency guidance

6 Final steps Fat chance of a healthy diet? The first step to a heart healthy diet is to cut down on fat, salt and sugar. You do need a little fat in your diet, so make sure you choose foods containing heart-healthy monounsaturated and omega 3 fats and avoid foods containing trans fats. Remember a heart healthy diet must also be balanced: lots of fresh fruit and vegetables; starchy foods such as potatoes, pasta, rice, bread and cereals (especially wholegrains); a small amount of low-fat dairy and protein foods and finally, an even smaller amount of foods high in fat and sugar - keep those for the occasional treat. The final ingredient: a healthy active lifestyle to go with it. Include a daily dose of exercise that gets your heart beating faster and makes you feel warm and slightly out of breath. How much fat a day? Adult men Adult women Average energy requirements* 2,500 calories 2,000 calories Total fat intake** 95 grams 70 grams Total saturated intake** 30 grams 20 grams * calories per day; these will depend on an individual s age, body size and level of activity ** grams per day; based on the COMA recommendations of 35% total calories provided as fat and 11% provided as saturated fat Heart Research UK is a national charity funding pioneering research into the prevention, treatment and cure of heart disease. We also support community-based lifestyle projects encouraging people to look after their heart health. For more information contact us on or us at Visit our website Registered charity no Heart Research UK, Suite 12D, Joseph s Well, Leeds LS3 1AB. More information Other Heart Research UK leaflets are available on the following topics exercise cholesterol women and their hearts stress blood pressure smoking general healthy heart advice healthy eating and many more...

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