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Ask an Expert: Healthy Fats

Sherri N. Stastny, Ph.D., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.R.D., Associate Professor, Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, NDSU

The latest dietary recommendations seem to be easing off on “low-fat” foods and now they’re more about using healthy fats in moderation. What are some changes that I can make to eat more heart healthy?

Yes, this is correct. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans and American Heart Association guidelines agree that healthy fats should be part of a balanced diet. However, if used in excess, sources of saturated fat should be replaced primarily with unsaturated fat, particularly polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Meanwhile, trans fat should be avoided because trans fat is suspected of raising LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol and lower HDL (the “good”) cholesterol.

In layman terms, eat more liquid type oily fats such as oily salad dressing, fatty fish, muffins made with canola oil, entrees and side dishes prepared with oil, and nut butter sandwiches on whole-grain bread, and enjoy a handful of nuts such as pecans, walnuts, filberts and pistachios as part of a balanced diet.

Avoid any “fat free” processed food that contains hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans fat) as an ingredient (you must read the ingredient declaration on the label to decipher the nutrition facts). Limit animalbased foods that contain higher amounts of saturated fat such as cheese, especially processed cheese, fatty meats, butter, poultry skin and butter-based baked items.

“Low fat” or “fat free” salad dressing often are loaded with sugar, sodium and other added ingredients, so read the label. Make traditional recipes more healthful by using “better” fat sources in place of saturated fat sources. One example is substituting fresh avocado for half of the yolks in deviled eggs. It’s great for St. Patrick’s Day!

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