Fats Friday: Marching on with Heart Health

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To celebrate American Heart Month, our #FatsFriday February blog series has focused on the heart-boosting benefits of dietary fats—they’re not the villain once thought to be. All month we’ve written about Nuts, Dairy, Oils & Spreads, Meat and Seafood—food sources that contain the most healthful types of fats we can eat.

While our previous blog posts have mainly focused on information, to end the series, we take a look at how to translate the information into action. Here’s your guide to continue marching on with heart health.


Stove Top and Ovencooking-with-oil

In real estate, there is only one important factor: location. In cooking, there are many. Two of the most critical culinary components are time and temperature.

Depending on the use, temperature or desired cooking method, a variety of liquid oils can be used. Here are few suggested uses for different oils.

  • Canola oil: use it for salad dressings, stir-frying, baking and marinades.
  • Olive oil: use it for salad dressings (extra virgin), pan-frying, searing, stir-frying, sautéing, grilling, broiling, baking, or dipping.
  • Soybean oil: use it for salad dressings or shortening.

Any type of cooking oil can be used at low, medium, or medium-high temperatures. If you’re looking to turn up the heat in your kitchen, be sure to check the smoke points of the cooking oil you choose. Not all fats and oils handle high heat quite the same way.    

Curious about coconut oil? Check out this IFIC Foundation Fact Sheet.


Baked Breads & Pastries

Who doesn’t love a fresh pastry or loaf of bread? Baking at home can be a challenge, especially if you’re looking to create nutritious and delicious product. Substituting different fats and oils in baked goods is a great way to experiment making your recipes more healthful without sacrificing flavor.

QUICK TIP: Go off-script! If a recipe calls for butter, instead you can use a ½ butter and ½ applesauce mixture to reduce the saturated fat content. Applesauce, egg whites and plain yogurt are great alternatives when butter or shortening is called for in a recipe. A word of caution to avoid a baking catastrophe: experiment with small changes and gradually increase substitutes in small batches to get your ratios right. Food chemistry matters!


Dress Up Your Salad

dress-your-saladWhether your favorite dress(ing) is #BlueAndBlack or #WhiteAndGold, you can fashion your own in a pinch!

QUICK TIP: Combine vinegar, herbs, and spices with canola, olive, or soybean oil for a quick and easy way to create a flavorful dressing. If you’re feeling extra creative, swap out olive oil for a nut or seed oil to provide a unique flavor!

DID YOU KNOW? By swapping creamy full-fat salad dressings with oil-based dressings you can help reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet. As an added bonus, you’ll simultaneously be increasing your intake of more healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats.

But dressings aren’t the only way to add fashion to your salad. Topping your salad with chopped nuts, cheese, or avocado slices can add great color and texture.

FUN FACT: Did you know avocados are actually a fruit? That’s right—avocados are one of the few fruits that provide healthful fats. They’re high in monounsaturated fats which may help improve insulin sensitivity while also lowering and maintaining proper cholesterol levels.


Spice up your Sandwich

From hoagies to clubs, from grinders to subs, sandwiches are an American tradition. But they can become mundane. Trying new cheese varieties can help! Using low-fat or thin cheese slices to your sandwich can adds big flavor while reducing the amount of saturated fat you eat. Try a different variety every now and again to keep your taste buds sharp—medium and extra sharp cheddar work too!

sandwich-with-avocadoQUICK TIPS:

  • Don’t like cheese? Adding pesto can make any sandwich feel gourmet. Pesto is not only a source of healthful fats, but protein as well.
  • Tired of peanut butter and jelly? Spice up this old school sandwich and try using almond, walnut, or hazelnut butters to bring bold flavor to this American classic.
  • Add avocado. My California roots bias me, but everything’s better with avocado.


Bottom Line

Get creative! Preparing food should be fun. It can be even more fun when you challenge yourself to create healthful and flavorful food. We’ve learned a lot about the benefits of including fats as part of a balanced diet in the last two decades. Rather than avoiding the use of nuts, dairy, oils, spreads, meats and seafood, explore the many varieties and uses for heart-healthy sources of fats in your meals. Not only will your heart thank you, but your taste buds will too. Happy American Heart Month, but don’t forget to keep marching toward heart health in the months (and years) ahead.


By Kris Sollid, RD, Director, Nutrients Communications, with contributions from Anastasia Maczko, University of Maryland, Dietetic Intern