Eating too much saturated fat has been shown to raise levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and increasing internal inflammation, and in turn, your risk for heart disease. Improving the fat quality of your diet by replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat has been shown to reduce all of the above. New research shows that replacing just a few saturated fat foods in your diet can lead to dramatic improvements in cardiovascular health in a very short period of time.
A lot of people think fat is bad for you. But the truth is you can’t live without it. Fat is your body’s primary source of energy at rest. The fat in foods provides essential fatty acids the body can’t make on its own. These nutrients are critical for healthy cells, adequate absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K), as well as insulation and protection for vital organs.
The key to enjoying these benefits is choosing the right quality of fat for your diet. Researchers from the University of Olso wanted to find out how total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and inflammation are affected by replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat for cooking and in foods such as bread spreads, cheese and cereals.
Replacing saturated fat
For their study, the researchers recruited 115 people with high cholesterol that weren’t being treated with statin drugs. Half were placed in a control group with no fat replacements. The others were placed in a test group with a diet that replaced saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat.
Among the findings, the test group reduced their total cholesterol an average of about by 9 percent and their LDL cholesterol by about 11 percent compared to the control group—after just eight weeks. This translated to a reduction in risk for cardiovascular disease by about 30 percent.
The researchers noted that there was no change in inflammation between the two groups. However The reduction in LDL cholesterol was significant because LDL is a major component of the plaque that clogs and hardens arteries at sites of inflammation within blood vessels of the heart and other parts of the body, in particular the legs.
Over time, these clogs can block the flow of blood to areas of the heart, resulting in a heart attack. Clogged arteries in the legs result in an extremely painful condition called intermittent claudication.
Improving fat quality
Limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of total daily calories can help you avoid these health problems. If your doctor says your LDL levels are too high, it’s recommended to reduce saturated fat intake to no more than 7 percent of total daily calories.
You can do this by targeting foods such as red meat, processed meat, commercial baked goods, butter, lard and bacon for replacement. Instead choose other sources of protein with foods such as poultry, fish, nuts, beans and rice. Cook with vegetable oils and enjoy foods such as olives and avocados.
The University of Olso study shows that by making just a few of these replacements is easy, manageable and leads to an improvement in cholesterol levels that will significantly reduce your future risk for cardiovascular disease.
American Heart Association