The types of fat you eat can determine the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream. Too much saturated fat raises blood cholesterol. Trans fat, used in making some commercially baked foods and fried foods in restaurants, also elevates cholesterol. Unsaturated fats, including polyunsaturated fats, improve cholesterol levels and benefit the heart.
Blood Vessel Blockage
Saturated fat raises low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol, which accumulates in the arteries. LDL forms plaque on the walls of the arteries, decreasing blood flow to the heart and increasing the risk of heart disease. In severe cases, the plaque can burst, completely blocking blood flow and leading to heart attack or stroke. A diet low in saturated fat helps reduce blood cholesterol and lowers your risk of heart dangers, MayoClinic.com explains.
Foods with Saturated Fat
Meat, poultry with skin and whole-milk dairy products contain high amounts of saturated fat. Some plant foods also have saturated fat and include coconut, coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil. To lower your intake of saturated fat and get necessary protein for energy and muscle building, you can still enjoy some of these foods with limits. Choose lean meats with visible fat trimmed off, poultry without skin and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Keep your saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of your daily calories. Emphasize more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your meals.
The two types of unsaturated fat include polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. You can find polyunsaturated fats in fish, walnuts, flaxseeds and flaxseed, soybean, corn and sunflower oils. Substituting these oils, along with monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, for butter or other unhealthy additives makes a healthy alternative. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats lower LDL cholesterol and raise protective HDL cholesterol, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. HDL helps clear the bloodstream of excess cholesterol. Low levels of LDL and high levels of HDL help lower cholesterol.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat, help reduce the risk of heart disease, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Sources of omega-3s include albacore tuna, salmon, mackerel, lake trout, sardines and herring. Eating fish at least two times a week can help provide you with the polyunsaturated fats for heart protection. Walnuts, flaxseeds, soybeans, pumpkin seeds and canola, soybean, flaxseed and walnut oils also contain omega-3 fatty acids.
- MayoClinic.com: Heart-Healthy Diet –- 8 Steps to Prevent Heart Disease
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol -- Out with the Bad, In with the Good
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- National Cholesterol Education Program: TLC Diet -- Daily Food Guide Food Groups
- fat-food image by Vinicius Tupinamba from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.