Fats that do Your Heart Good
Think a “low-fat” label on a food product automatically makes it a heart-healthy choice? Not necessarily. Fats make our food more tasty and palatable. To that end, low-fat processed foods, such as low-fat cookies, desserts and crackers are often packed with sugars, salt and refined carbohydrates to make up for the lack of taste and texture. Moreover, these refined “low-fat” products often have similar calorie content to the original product. So eating too many of them can be as unhealthy as a high-fat diet in terms of raising your risk of heart disease and cholesterol levels.
A better strategy is to limit your consumption of low-fat processed foods in favor of the good fats found in avocados, nuts, seeds and all varieties of fi sh. In fact, experts recommend that people eat fish rich in omega-3 acids to lower their risk of heart attack and stroke. However, there is a catch.
Good fats, bad chemicals?
Despite its heart-healthy benefits, some people are worried about harmful chemicals in fish—especially mercury. And these concerns are valid. Over time, the metal can build up in your body and lead to health problems if you regularly eat fish high in mercury. Because mercury affects the developing brain, woman who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant and young children should limit the amount of fish they eat.
What types of fish have the highest concentrations of mercury? Generally, it is larger, longer-living predatory fish that eat lots of other fish for food. These include shark, swordfish, marlin, and orange roughy and fresh or frozen tuna. The fish used in canned tuna products are generally younger and smaller, so they have less mercury than fresh or frozen tuna. However, people who consume large amounts of canned albacore tuna (the white kind) may have to be careful as it contains higher levels of mercury.
Your best choices? Fresh, frozen or canned fatty fish such as salmon, rainbow trout, mackerel, herring, sardines and “light” tuna made from skipjack or yellowfi n are all low in mercury.
Bottom line: For people at risk for heart disease, the health benefits of eating fish outweigh the possible risks of exposure to toxins. Aim to have at least two 3.5 ounce servings a week (about the size of a deck of cards), and grill, bake or broil them to your heart’s content.