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Posts Tagged ‘healthy fats’

Man looking at butter and margarine

Happy February! As you may know, February is National Heart Month… the perfect time to think about making heart healthy choices. For heart health, what would you choose? Butter vs margarine? Beef vs chicken?

Heart healthy eating includes choosing food with less saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated is a word that refers to the chemical structure of some fat where molecules stack on top of each other and are rigid. As such, saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature and are found mostly in animal products. The fat in most red meat is more saturated than the fat in chicken, turkey, and fish. Buying leaner cuts of meat and removing the skin from poultry can help reduce fat content. Eating less cheese is another way to cut back. Experts suggest eating no more than 22 g of saturated fat per day for a 2,000 diet, and that can add up quickly! For example, 1 oz of cheese (equivalent to 4 dice or 1 small slice) has about 5-6 grams! Products with more than 20% of the RDA for saturated fat per serving, as listed on the nutrition facts panel, are high sources.

Trans-fats or trans fatty acids are formed when vegetable oils are made into margarine or shortening. Trans-fats are found in foods made with “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “vegetable shortening.” Baked goods such as cookies, donuts, pie crusts, and pastries often will have small amounts of trans-fats. Too much trans-fat in the diet will raise bad blood cholesterol levels and lower good. Read labels to check for trans fats, but beware that food manufacturers can indicate that there are 0 grams of trans-fat if their product has less than .5 grams per serving. A better indication of whether trans-fats are present in a product is to look for the term “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredient list.

In contrast to saturated fats and trans-fats, unsaturated fats are generally liquid at room temperature and come from plant-based sources. When used in moderation and in place of saturated fats and trans-fats, unsaturated fats such as those contained in liquid oils can help improve blood cholesterol. Use liquid oils as much as possible when baking, frying, spreading. Canola, peanut, safflower, and olive oils are excellent choices.

So butter vs margarine? Butter will contain saturated fat and hard margarines have the issue of containing trans-fats. Soft or whipped margarines are a good choice but are best as a bread spread and not always appropriate for baking. Whatever you choose, all fats have the same amount of calories (9 cal/ gram) so go easy.

Author: Dan Remley, PhD, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness, Ohio State University Extension

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, MPH, RD, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Sources:

The Cleveland Clinic (2014). Fat: What you need to know. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11208-fat-what-you-need-to-know

The American Heart Association (2017). The Skinny on Fats. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/prevention-and-treatment-of-high-cholesterol-hyperlipidemia/the-skinny-on-fats

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