By Willow Jarosh, R.D., and Stephanie Clarke, R.D.
Q: I’ve heard that a low-fat diet can support heart health. Does that mean that I should cut most fat out of my diet?
A: No. The truth is, you need some fat (even saturated fat) in your diet in order to help maintain healthy heart and blood vessel function. In fact, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people over the age of two get 25 to 35 percent of their total daily calories from fat! (So a better way to think about it is as a moderate-fat diet; low-fat sounds too restrictive.) That means that someone who needs around 2,000 calories a day should aim for 55 to 77 grams of fat each day. If you want to do the math yourself, using your calorie needs, multiply your total calories by 25 to 35 percent and then divide that number by nine (there are nine calories per gram of fat).
But, the amount of fat you should consume each day is only half the story—the type matters, too. The AHA suggests that the majority of your fat come in the form of mono- and polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, nut butters, fish, and vegetable oils (like the blend of canola, soybean and olive oils found in Smart Balance® Omega Cooking Oil). Further, they recommend that you keep saturated fat to about seven percent of your total calories (for someone eating 1,800 calories, that would be no more than 14 grams). As for trans fats, you should have as little as possible, and no more than 2 grams a day according to the AHA.
Some studies show that having the proper mix of saturated fats with mono and polyunsaturated fats combined with regular exercise may help support healthy cholesterol levels.* In fact, many products from the Smart Balance® brand contain a patented blend of all three fats. To keep your overall fat intake within a healthier range, replace at least two servings of fattier cuts of beef a week with two 4- to 5-ounce servings of fish such as salmon to load up on essential omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and swap the butter on your morning toast with Smart Balance® Buttery Spread to benefit from the patented blend of natural oils. In other words, you don’t need to cut out all fats from your diet to help you maintain heart health — you just need to make wise choices and stick with the American Heart Association’s recommendations for total intake!
*Limit total fat intake to about 30% of calories, saturated fat to 10% and dietary cholesterol to 300mg per day and avoid trans fats.
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