Q: What is a heart-healthy diet?
A: A heart-healthy diet is one that limits saturated fat, trans fat and dietary cholesterol while adding heart-healthy foods in an attempt to lower your blood cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, saturated fat should not exceed 7 percent of your total calories, trans fat should not exceed 1 percent and cholesterol should be less than 300 milligrams.
If You Are Eating.....Saturated Fat Intake Should Be... Dietary Cholesterol
2,000 calories..........No more than 20 grams.............300 milligrams
2,500 calories..........No more than 28 grams.............300 milligrams
2,800 calories..........No more than 31 grams.............300 milligrams
The strategy for minimizing your intake of these dietary components is fairly straightforward. In general, you need to eat lean and eat less (animal foods, that is).
Saturated fat is most abundantly found in fatty cuts of meat and in the skin on poultry. Using leaner varieties of these foods and eating less by limiting your servings to approximately six ounces daily will automatically reduce the saturated fat in your diet.
Dietary cholesterol is ONLY found in animal foods; keeping a six-ounce upper limit on the amount of meat and poultry you eat daily will also harness the amount of dietary cholesterol you eat.
Trans fats are found in foods made with hydrogenated oils, and show up in commercially baked goods, stick margarine, shortening and many fried foods.
There really isn't a downside to consuming a heart-healthy diet. While you need some unsaturated fat for a healthy diet, you don't need to eat a morsel of saturated fat or trans fat. Your daily dietary fat requirements can be easily met by enjoying foods that provide predominantly heart-healthy unsaturated fat, such as olive, canola and soybean oils.
The same good news holds true for dietary cholesterol. While cholesterol is needed in your body to make important substances, such as certain hormones and vitamin D, your body can make all the cholesterol that it needs. You don't have to rely on your diet to provide any cholesterol.
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