Just when so many of my patients are figuring out the difference between healthy fats and unhealthy ones, a new study has been released to confuse them.
In a paper published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers challenge the use of corn and safflower oils as healthy substitutes for saturated animal fats. The authors claimed that a review of recent research suggests that although omega-6 linoleic acid lowers serum cholesterol levels, it also seems to increase the risk of coronary artery disease.
Omega-6 fatty acids, just like omega-3 fatty acids, are considered essential fatty acids because they are needed for human health but the body can’t make them—you have to consume them through the foods you eat. Omega 6s come mostly from plant oils and omega 3s come primarily from fatty fish. In addition to lowering cholesterol levels, both omegas, also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), have been found to possibly help stimulate skin and hair growth, support bone health, regulate metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system. [Tweet this fact!]
RELATED: 8 New Healthy Oils to Cook With
But now that there's a suggested heart risk, should you only consume omega 3s and ditch the omega 6s from your cupboards? Not so fast. The key is to have the proper ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 in your diet, since omega 3s are known to reduce inflammation in the body while omega 6s tend to promote inflammation. The Mediterranean diet is the perfect example of a healthy balance between the two fatty acids, and studies have shown that people who follow this diet are less likely to develop heart disease.
I think what really matters is how much fat you are consuming overall in your diet and the variety you choose. The American Heart Association recommends your total fat intake per day be around 25 to 35 percent of your total calories. This is important because too much fat no matter how you look at it is too many calories, and too many calories add up, causing weight gain, which can lead to many health risks including coronary heart disease.
There are, however, some fats you should restrict or avoid. Saturated fat, such as butter, whole fat dairy, and red meat, should be limited to less than 7 percent of your total fat, according to the AHA. Research does conclude that saturated fat can lead to high cholesterol levels and possible heart disease. And trans fats have been linked to raising good cholesterol; most recently the FDA proposed that the use of artificial trans fats be banned. Good riddance to those.
And the rest of your fat intake? Be mindful of portions and feel free to mix it up with both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. There's olive oil, canola oil, palm oil, flaxseed oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, nuts and seeds, avocado, and so many different types to choose from, I really think we should simply enjoy them. [Tweet this tip!]