Heart-Healthy Fat and Where to Find It

Eating heart-healthy fats and avoiding not-so-healthy fats when cooking and eating can help you maintain a healthy heart.

Fats to Eat

Heart-healthy fats like unsaturated fats have an anti-inflammatory effect, decrease bad LDL cholesterol, and increase good LDL cholesterol: all good for our heart-health. Unsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature and can be found in:

  • avocados & avocado oil
  • olives & olive oil
  • nuts (especially almonds) & natural nut butters

Omega 3s are another important heart-healthy fat. Our body doesn’t make them, so we have to get Omega 3s from our diet! They can be found in:

  • fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel & sardines
  • plant sources like flaxseeds & walnuts
The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish two times a week.
The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish two times a week.

Fats to Avoid

The most important fat to avoid is trans fat from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Trans fats are added to foods to increase their shelf life, flakiness, or creaminess, and can be found in:

  • fried foods
  • margarine
  • pudding
  • crackers
  • tortillas
  • pastries like croissants, donuts, cookies, pies, and biscuits

Always check the ingredient list, even if the front of the package claims “No Trans Fat”. Labels are allowed to say this if there is less than 0.5g of trans fat per serving, but the goal is to eat 0g of trans fat per day!

When possible, try cooking with olive oil instead of butter.
When possible, try cooking with olive oil instead of butter.

Many nutrition experts also believe you should avoid saturated fats, which can increase inflammation. Saturated fat is usually solid at room temperature and can be found in:

  • white marbled fat on beef, pork, chicken
  • processed meats like bacon and sausage
  • butter/margarine
  • full-fat dairy products

To limit saturated fats, choose lean meat, trim visible fat before eating, choose 1-2% dairy products, and cook with olive oil in place of butter (when possible).

Read more heart-health tips from our American Heart Month series.

MeghanPerkins 150x150

Meghan Perkins is Project Angel Heart’s registered dietitian. After a semester studying baking and pastry arts at culinary school, Meghan quickly found her passion for clinical nutrition and transferred to the University of Northern Colorado to earn her bachelor’s degree in dietetics. Meghan has worked in clinical and private practice settings, educating patients about how their food choices impact their health with an emphasis on CKD, diabetes, heart disease, celiac disease, and weight management. In her free time, Meghan enjoys exploring Denver by bike with her husband, trying new coffee and tea shops, hiking in Crested Butte, and relaxing with her dog Barney. 

Kevin Giles 150x150

Kevin Giles is Project Angel Heart’s modified meals assistant. Kevin grew up in Dallas, Texas where he spent most of his time working in kitchens and attending a technical high school that taught culinary arts. In 2011, Kevin made the move to Denver to attend Johnson & Wales, and graduated with his degree in Culinary Nutrition in 2015. Kevin enjoys spending time snuggling with his two cats and going to the gym.