Heart Healthy Fats
Dietary fat plays a role in the body by providing energy, creating organ protection, allowing absorption of fat-soluble vitamins as well as contributing to other cellular functions. Fat is necessary in the diet and some dietary fats play a role in heart health. Try loving on your heart this year by choosing heart healthy fats! Confused about which type of fat is which? Let’s break it down.
There are two major groups of dietary fats: unsaturated fats and saturated fats. Unsaturated fats are linked to improved health outcomes. They are considered “essential” fats that the body cannot produce on its own. Unsaturated fats include monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs).
Monounsaturated fats are known for their benefits in improving cholesterol levels particularly when they replace less healthful saturated and trans fats. Monounsaturated fats come from olive oil, avocados, peanuts, and other nuts.
Polyunsaturated are further divided into two categories: omega-6 fats and omega-3 fats.
Omega-6s provide energy to the body and play a role in heart health and inflammation regulation. Most of the population is getting plenty of omega-6s as it is found in vegetable oils like canola oil. Researchers have investigated whether a better ratio from decreased omega-6s and increased omega-3s may be beneficial for reducing inflammation, but this has not been proven.
Omega-3s are known for their anti-inflammatory benefits and promote heart health, improve cholesterol levels, and encourage cognitive health. They are important for brain and eye development in infants. Omega-3s come in the form of ALA, EPA, and DHA. Sources of ALA are plant based and include walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds. Sources of DHA and EPA are mostly animal based and include salmon, trout, tuna, sardines, and algal oil (vegan). The body can typically utilize DHA and EPA more effectively than ALA. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish, especially those high in DHA, twice per week to up the heart healthy benefits.
Ready to add some heart healthy fats?
Check out this recipe for a fabulous fat snack.
Recipe: Chicken Tostadas
- 1 pound chicken breast raw
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 roma tomatoes diced
- 1 avocado diced
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 8 corn tortillas
- Combine olive oil, cumin, chili powder and onion powder in small mixing bowl. Squeeze in the juice from 1 lime.
- Add chicken breasts to the olive oil mixture. Cover completely. Let set for 20 minutes.
- Place chicken in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Flip periodically. Cook until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear (Chicken should reach 165 degrees with a thermometer).
- Remove from stove. Cut into ½ inch pieces. Set aside.
- Arrange corn tortillas on a sheet so that they do not overlap. Bake in oven for 3-4 or until crispy (Watch carefully as they burn easily).
- Assemble tostada by adding chicken, diced tomato, avocado and cheese to each tortilla. Serve immediately!
Makes 4 servings, 2 tostadas each.
Omega-3 fatty acids: An essential contribution. The Nutrition Source. (2019, May 22). Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/omega-3-fats/
PC;, I. J. K. C. (n.d.). Omega-6 fatty acids and inflammation. Prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and essential fatty acids. Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29610056/
No need to avoid healthy omega-6 fats. Harvard Health. (2019, August 20). Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/no-need-to-avoid-healthy-omega-6-fats
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2014, January). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Dietary Fatty Acids for Healthy Adults.
Mashek, D. G., & Wu, C. (2015, May 15). Mufas. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.). Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4424766/