OSF Saint Francis Medical Center

Peoria, Illinois

Fats & Cholesterol

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Eating a diet low in saturated fat and trans fat, low in sodium and high in fiber is needed to help prevent and/or slow the path of heart disease. A heart healthy diet can help lower blood cholesterol levels and manage high blood pressure. There are several types of fat found in the diet, and they all have different roles.  Read on to learn which types of fat are healthier than others.

Choose more unsaturated fats

  • Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are the most heart healthy and can help lower blood cholesterol levels when replacing saturated fats.
  • Include more olive, canola, or peanut oil when cooking. Substitute tub margarine and liquid margarine sprays and spreads for butter, stick margarine, or solid shortening.
  • Choose raw or unsalted nuts and seeds such as, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and ground flaxseeds. Nut butters are also a good choice.
  • Include more soy products - edamame, tofu, and soy nuts.
  • Try adding avocado or guacamole to eggs and sandwiches.

Eat more Omega-3 fatty acids

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fats that help the heart by lowering your risk of sudden death, buildup of blood clots and reducing triglycerides in the blood.   
  • Eat fatty fish at least two times each week.  Fatty fish includes salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout, and herring. One serving of fish is 3.5 oz cooked, or about ¾ cup of a flaked fish.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in plant foods. However, omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are better for your heart than omega-3’s found in plant foods such as flax seeds or canola oil.

Limit saturated fats

  • Limit foods that have saturated fats like fatty meats, skin on your poultry, butter, whole milk dairy products, tropical oils (palm, palm kernel and coconut), and egg yolks.
  • Choose round or loin cuts of meat, at least 90% lean ground beef, and skinless poultry.  Remember to trim all the fat from your meat before cooking.
  • Choose lower fat dairy products – milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese.
  • One egg per day does not increase your risk for heart disease. On average, one whole egg contains 1-2 grams of saturated fat.  Egg whites do not contain any saturated fat.                         

Limit artificial trans fats in your diet

  • The government has required that by 2021, artificial trans fats will no longer be allowed in foods. This is because they greatly increase the risk for heart disease. 
  • Look for the words “partially hydrogenated” in the list of ingredients to see if your food contains artificial trans fats.  Some foods which may contain artificial trans fat include margarines, baked goods, snack crackers, shortening, frozen meals, and fried foods.


American Heart Association.  “Are Eggs Good For You or Not?”  American Heart Association.  Web. 16 Aug. 2018.  <https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/08/15/are-eggs-good-for-you-or-not>. Accessed 6 Dec. 2018. 

American Heart Association. Web. 2019.  <http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Nutrition-Center_UCM_001188_SubHomePage.jsp>. Accessed 6 March 2019.

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Food Additives & Ingredients - Final Determination Regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils (Removing TransFat).” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/foodadditivesingredients/ucm449162.htm. Accessed 13 June 2018.

 “Heart Healthy Nutrition Therapy.” Nutrition Care Manual. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Web. 2019. <http://nutritioncaremanual.org/download.cfm?path=/vault/editor/Docs/HeartHealthyNutritionTherapy2.pdf>. Accessed 6 March 2019.

 “Heart Healthy-Reduced Sodium Nutrition Therapy.”  Nutrition Care Manual. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Web. 2019. <https://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/client_ed.cfm?ncm_client_ed_id=121>. Accessed 6 March 2019.

“What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Web. 20 Dec. 2018. https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/types-of-vitamins-and-nutrients/what-are-omega-3-fatty-acids. Accessed 6 March 2019.