Do you know which fats are healthy and which ones can clog your heart arteries?

Heart Healthy Fats, or Fats That Kill?
The Answer May Surprise You

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  • I'm Gene Millen, Heart Health Coach. I was pretty uninformed about nutrition before my heart bypass surgery in 1990. A lesson I learned the hard way.

    Heart healthy fat is one of the best heart healthy foods. It can help you lose weight and energize your body.

    Healthy diets don't include fat, right? Wrong! You need the healing fats that fight heart disease and help you lose weight.

    For more than 30 years, we have been bombarded with the message to eat less fat for the sake of our hearts and our waistlines.

    Fat has been associated with heart disease, cancer, hardening of the arteries, and ugly body flab. The very word "fat" is rarely promoted as one of the heart healthy foods.

    But now a growing number of researchers are saying that in trying to squeeze some of the heart-damaging grease from our diets, they have sent us the wrong message. It's not fat that is the problem...but the kinds of fat we eat.

    It's about time they "saw the light."

    My eyes were opened wide in 1995 to the necessity of fats and oils in a heart healthy diet. I was browsing in the health section of our local bookstore and came upon a title, "Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill" caught my eye.

    I couldn't resist taking a look. I soon discovered that the author, Udo Erasmus, has an international reputation and is one of the original pioneers in the study of fats. Udo is reverently known as "His Royal Oiliness" and is considered to be an expert in healthy foods and healthy diets.

    Dr. Erasmus' academic credentials include a BS in zoology, an MA in psychology, a PhD in nutrition and graduate studies in genetics and biochemistry.

    Udo's 450 page book is the culmination of tracking down thousands of original research studies on fats and oils. It isn't an easy read but it contains a wealth of information that you won't find anywhere else. It lists in detail the healthy foods and why they should be in a healthy diet.

    Trans Fats Can Clog Your Arteries

    One of my pet peeves is the American Heart Association website. They rate trans fat side by side to saturated fat. This is way off the mark.

    These "killer" trans fats are formed by pumping hydrogen into an oil to make it solid and increase the shelf life.

    This process changes the molecular structure and turns a perfectly good oil into a toxic product. Any oil heated to a high temperature for deep frying (as in French fries) is loaded with trans fat...even if it is a vegetable oil.

    Whenever you see "partially hydrogenated oil" on the label you know it has trans fats and they are definitely not a heart healthy fat. This includes most packaged foods and margarines, including those that say "cholesterol free". A very clever advertising trick.

    Udo says that trans fats impair the protective barrier around cells, which is vital for keeping cells alive and healthy. Allergic reactions may result and immune function may be impaired.

    In the ongoing Nurses Health Study each 2% increase in trans fat consumption converted to a whopping 93% increase in coronary heart disease.
    A study published in The Lancet in 1994 showed that almost three-quarters of the fat found clogging arteries is trans fat.

    Olive Oil...A Heart Healthy Fat in the Mediterranean Diet

    Current research sheds new light on the role of olive oil in the Mediterranean diet. High in mono unsaturated fat and a good source of antioxidants, olive oil is the region's principal source of fat and is believed to be a key reason for their lower rates heart disease.

    Be sure you purchase extra-virgin Olive oil. The so-called light olive oil is of poorer quality and does not have fewer calories. A recent study shows that a high intake of extra-virgin olive oil was associated with preservation of cognitive functions in healthy elderly people.

    Good Fats - Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

    EFAs are called essential fatty acids because our body must have them but cannot make them and have been proven to significantly reduce risk heart disease. They lower the LDL bad cholesterol, triglycerides and also blood pressure.

    One great thing about Omega 3 oils is that they will not make you fat. They are used for energy and do not end up in the fat cells.
    Well, this heart healthy fat treatise has been a lot to digest (pardon the pun) but the bottom line is simple.
    To live a long and healthy life avoid the bad fats and increase the good ones.

    One of Mark Twain's more insightful quotes is

    "Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits."
    With that in mind I am taking up the challenge to help you reform yours.
    We wish for you Vital Heart Health for a long, long time!
    Gene Millen signature

    Gene Millen, Heart Health Coach Certifications/Accomplishments

    • Completed Cardiac Rehabilitation Program of 200 sessions supervised by nurses and cardiologist.
    • Gene has been certified as a Physical Fitness Specialist by the prestigious Cooper Clinic and Wellness Center in Dallas Texas
    • Certification as a Medical Exercise Specialist included designing personalized exercise/wellness programs for those recovering from heart attack as well as those with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart pacemakers and more.
    • Health and wellness articles have received more than 43,000 visits.
    • Gene's column is published in Mid Valley Publications, with weekly circulation of 35,000 in the Central Valley of California.
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