While low-fat diets were once all the rage, they are no longer considered a heart-healthy choice. In fact, when you cut saturated fat, such as that in meat and butter, out of your diet, you should replace it with the healthier fats found in vegetable oils, nuts, and fish. A presidential advisory from the American Heart Association drives that point home.
The advisory, which was published online last year in Circulation, summarizes evidence from several recent clinical trials and other research looking at the impact of dietary fat on heart health. On balance, clinical trials show that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat from vegetable oils can curb the risk of heart disease.
Why is unsaturated fat beneficial? When people consume it in place of saturated fat, it appears to lower their LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels and may have a positive effect on HDL cholesterol.
However, vegetable oils and nuts are not magic bullets. When you swap out saturated fat for healthier fats, you should do so in the context of a generally heart-smart diet-one rich in vegetables and fruit, fiber-rich grains, fish, lean meat, and legumes, as well as low in processed foods, sodium, sugary drinks, and sweets.