Tag Archives: Low-density lipoprotein

Fast Facts on Fats

Q: There are so many types of cooking oil on the market. Which one should I use?

A: The healthiest oils are those with the least amount of saturated fat. Choose canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil. These varieties are higher in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which are heart healthy, because they are able to lower total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol if used in place of other fats. No matter which oil you pick, however, it’s important to use it sparingly. Each tablespoon of a vegetable-based oil packs 120 calories! Stay away from coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil – these three oils are high in saturated fat, which raises your risk for heart disease.

Here’s how to choose among some of the “healthier” oil options:

Canola oil: Has the least amount of saturated fat (only 7%)! Great for sautéing, stir frying, baking and salad dressings. Canola oil does not give off a strong flavor and can be used over high-heat.

Olive oil: Contains a large amount of good, monounsaturated fat. Use it for dressings, marinades, roasting, grilling and low-heat cooking. Olive oil will start to break down at very high temperatures.

Vegetable oil: This oil is usually made from soybeans. It is an all-purpose oil that can be used for baking, sautéing and pan frying. Since vegetable oil has a relatively high saturated fat content, canola oil is a healthier choice.

Corn oil: With about 13% saturated fat, corn oil is not the best option. It can be used for deep frying, stir-frying, sautéing and baking, because of a very high tolerance to heat.

Peanut oil: While it is often used in yummy Asian-inspired stir fry dishes, peanut oil has a very high saturated fat content (about 18%)! This makes it costly to your cardiovascular health.

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Filed under Fats & Oils, Heart Healthy Choices, Meal Tips

Protecting your heart

Q: My doctor says I have high cholesterol. What can I do to lower it?

A: There are several components to a “lipid profile” – total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, HDL (“good”) cholesterol and triglycerides. If your physician is telling you that you have “high cholesterol,” he is referring to either the total cholesterol number, your LDL reading or both. A desirable profile is as follows:

Total cholesterol <200 mg/dl

LDL cholesterol <130 mg/dl

HDL cholesterol >40 mg/dl (>50 mg/dl for women)

Triglyceride level <150 mg/dl

Cholesterol is a component of animal products and is not found in plant-based foods. It is necessary in the body for the production of bile, which helps digest fats, and steroid hormones (e.g. vitamin D, estrogen and testosterone). While the body utilizes cholesterol for important functions, the liver is also able to synthesize necessary amounts – it is not necessary to ingest it as part of your diet! Total cholesterol, LDL and triglyceride levels that are too high put you at risk for cardiovascular disease.


Let’s focus on LDL cholesterol, since it has been linked to atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Several factors influence LDL levels, including age, diabetes, obesity, reduced estrogen levels and diet.  Diets high in saturated fat and cholesterol elevate LDL. In addition, trans-fats can raise LDL and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol – a double whammy!

Lower your saturated fat intake! Saturated fat intake has a much greater negative effect on blood cholesterol than does dietary cholesterol. (Dietary cholesterol, however, is often found in the same foods that are high in saturated fat.) Choose lean meats, select skim milk, low-fat dairy products and stick to vegetable oils that are liquid at room temperature (e.g. cook with olive or canola oil, rather than butter or lard.) To further cut back on fat intake, remove the skin from chicken before eating, substitute margarine for butter and grill or bake fish, meat and poultry instead of frying.

Eat a minimum amount of trans-fat. Select products that are made with no hydrogenated (or partially hydrogenated) vegetable oils. Check the ingredient list before buying!!

Lastly, up your intake of viscous or soluble fiber. Choose more fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains, especially barley and oats.

While there are several ways to manage blood cholesterol levels with medication, try modifying your diet first. Just a 1-point decrease in your LDL cholesterol level corresponds to a 1-2% decrease in your risk for developing coronary heart disease!

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Filed under Fruits and Vegetables, Grains, Heart Healthy Choices, Medical Conditions

Better than butter?

Q: Is there a difference between butter and margarine?

A: Yes! A quick look at the nutrition facts tells us there is a big difference between butter and margarine! The debate focuses on the types of fat found in these products and stick butter has the most saturated fat per tablespoon (7g), giving it the most unhealthy characteristics.

When it comes to eating a heart healthy diet, you want to minimize intake of artery-clogging trans-fat and saturated fat, both of which can raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol level. Keep trans-fat consumption to a minimum and saturated fat to less than 10% of daily calories. (That’s 20g saturated fat for a daily 2,000 calorie diet!)

Years ago, hard margarines were made with unhealthy hydrogenated oils. Hydrogenation is the process of taking unsaturated (healthier) fats and adding hydrogen atoms to obtain characteristics of a saturated fat. For example, hydrogenated oils are firmer and easier to spread, but this causes the loss of health benefits associated with unsaturated fats. Trans-fatty acids also form during hydrogenation and pose a double risk to heart health by raising LDL (bad) cholesterol AND lowering HDL (good) cholesterol. Thanks to better technology, soft margarines and spreads can now be made from a blend of unhydrogenated oils, such as soybean and canola oils, which are mostly unsaturated and, therefore, more heart healthy than butter.

While whipped butter has less saturated fat per tablespoon that stick butter (see below), soft margarine and spreads are clearly the way to go to save on calories and saturated fat grams! The bottom line? Check the ingredient list to make sure the product is not made with partially hydrogenated oils and look for spreads that are trans-fat free and low in saturated fat!

Butter, stick (1 Tbsp): 100 calories, 11g total fat (7g saturated)

Breakstone’s whipped butter (1 Tbsp): 70 calories, 7g total fat (4.5g saturated)

Land o’ Lakes whipped butter (1 Tbsp): 50 calories, 6g total fat (3.5g saturated)

Land o’ Lakes soft margarine (1 Tbsp): 100 calories, 11g total fat (3g saturated)

Land o’ Lakes Fresh Buttery Taste Spread, soft (1 Tbsp): 70 calories, 8g total fat (2g saturated)

Fleischmann’s Original Soft Spread (1 Tbsp): 70 calories, 8g total fat (1.5g saturated)

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, original soft spread (1 Tbsp): 70 calories, 8g total fat (2g saturated)

*Smart Balance Original Buttery Spread (1 Tbsp): 80 calories, 9g total fat (2.5g saturated)

*Promise buttery spread (1 Tbsp): 80 calories, 8g total fat (1.5g saturated)


*Made with no hydrogenated oils

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Filed under Fats & Oils, Heart Healthy Choices