How healthy fats can boost your heart health

How healthy fats can boost your heart health

Recent research from the American Heart Association (AHA) says eating foods with healthy fats in them can significantly boost your heart health.

The study, published in the Journal American Heart Association, took a look at the diet of people around the world. The research found that consuming healthier fats could save more than a million people worldwide from dying from heart disease annually.

Study author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian said, in the news release, that they found there would be a much larger impact if we focused the attention on increasing the consumption of polyunsaturated fats as a replacement for saturated fats and refined carbohydrates, as well as reducing trans fats.

According to the AHA, polyunsaturated fats can be found in soybean, sunflower and corn oils, and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, trout and herring. The AHA says to avoid refined carbohydrates and saturated fats, like white breads, cookies, snack cakes, most cereals and pastas. Look for labels that read: 100 percent whole wheat; unsweetened rolled oats; whole grain cereals; unsweetened and natural products.

Dr. Shoeb Sitafalwalla, a cardiologist at Advocate Heart Institute and director of the South Asian Cardiovascular Center in Park Ridge, Ill., agrees that everyone should focus on improving their heart health through a healthy diet.

“The emphasis should be placed on the unsaturated fats with maximal avoidance of saturated fats,” he says. “An example of good unsaturated fat heavy foods include avocados, olives, nuts, fatty fish like salmon and flaxseed.”

Dr. Sitafalwalla shares a few healthy cooking tips:

  • Use olive oil or grapeseed oil as easy options for baking or stove top cooking, instead of traditional vegetable oils and margarine.
  • For baking, consider some non-traditional substitutes like mashed bananas or yogurt for homemade baked goods like breads, pancakes and cookies.

“One easy rule of thumb is if the fat or oil is solid at room temperature, then it’s likely saturated and not part of a heart healthy diet,” Dr. Sitafalwalla says. “Think butter, margarine, lard, shortening, etc.”

Dr. Sitafalwalla says to not be afraid to experiment with alternatives to traditional fats or oils.

“It might take a few tries to modify your recipes to get things just right, but the payoff is clearly worth it,” he says. “Incorporating unsaturated fats (poly or mono) can not only help you avoid unhealthy options, but will likely help lower your cholesterol and put your on a path to a heart healthy future.”

Do you know your risk for heart disease? Take Advocate Heart Institute’s heart risk assessment here. If you are at high risk, see one of Advocate Heart Institute’s cardiologists within 24 hours.

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One Comment

  1. Dr. Ashwani Garg

    To solve the heart disease epidemic, it will require more than just substituting olive oil and canola instead of lard. My advice to patients is to get rid of the oil completely (or as much as possible and practical) from your cooking and instead get your healthy fats from nuts, beans, olives, and avocados. My advice is to eliminate/avoid animal products like meat, cheese, eggs and dairy foods, even fish, because there is always bad fat along with the good. Consider this: 1/2 a filet of salmon still contains 6gm of saturated fat and no fiber at all. There is 109 mg of cholesterol which is still a high level. On the other hand, 92 gm of sliced almonds contain only 3.4 gm saturated fat, and beats the salmon by a whole lot for the poly/monounsaturated fat, along with providing 11 gm of fiber. Consider also that 100 gm of olive oil will contain nearly 900 calories, 14 gm saturated fat, no fiber, and virtually no other nutrients. This illustration shows why I do not consider oil a health food, nor do I consider fish a healthy food. Oil free cooking is a skill anyone can learn, and Whole Foods Market has created this video which is very helpful: – all the flavor can be preserved, and the food can be enriched with actual nuts, olives, and avocado rather than highly processed oils.

    To save “only” 1 Million lives is not enough, I would make the bold claim that heart disease can be virtually eliminated with the right diet and activity! Consider Dr. Denis Burkitt’s research in Africa showing virtually no heart disease in this population eating a simple healthy diet:

    Consider the prospective studies by Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, in which a low fat plant based diet not only prevented a second heart attack in those with heart disease, but actually showed angiographic evidence of heart disease reversal! There was actually a review article published in a family practice journal about this. I wonder why this research has not caught on in the cardiology community (except that the new chairman of the American College of Cardiology, Dr. Kim Williams at Rush, helped sponsor a cardiology conference last summer in Rosemont inviting all these researchers to come and speak about heart disease reversal – he is fully on board. He has said there are 2 kinds of cardiologists, those who are vegan, and those who haven’t yet reviewed the research). See this article:

    While some may say that larger studies are needed, and we need “double blind, controlled studies” – just understand that it’s impossible to do blinded studies on diet. But given that the present research so amazingly compelling, and with absolutely no side effects, that I would say that it would be a disservice to patients not to tell them about this approach! Every patient of mine with heart disease gets referred to these online resources of Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, as well as the other greats in cardiology preventive research. An exciting upcoming book which I have had the privilege to review, reflects 25 years of Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s work in his office, doing clinical data gathering on his patients, with amazing results. It is called “The End of Heart Disease” and is now available to preorder on

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About the Author

Sarah Scroggins
Sarah Scroggins

Sarah Scroggins, health enews contributor, is the director of social media at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She has a BA and MA in Communications. When not on social media, she loves reading a good book (or audiobook), watching the latest Netflix series and teaching a college night class.