Which is healthier - butter, margarine or vegetable oil? What is trans fat and why is it bad for me? The American Diabetic Association has helped to set the record straight with the following information:
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend keeping total fat between 20 to 35 percent of our total calories. Most of these fats should come from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. On the other hand, intake of saturated and trans fat should be limited. Saturated fat should be kept to less than 10 percent of total calories and trans fat kept as low as possible. Today, the majority of Americans consume too much saturated and trans fat. Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.
Why is this important? Consider these facts:
Fact One: Every 45 seconds someone has a heart attack.
Fact Two: High blood cholesterol levels are a major risk for heart attacks and can be reduced by making wise dietary fat choices.
Fact Three: Research suggests that choosing margarine in place of butter can reduce the risk of heart disease by 10 percent.
Margarine vs. Butter
Butter is high in both saturated fat and cholesterol. Too much saturated fat in the diet has been shown to raise total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease. Margarines or spreads, on the other hand, are made from a blend of healthy oils like soybean, canola and sunflower. These vegetable oils are low in saturated fats, contain no cholesterol and are rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Margarine and spreads are usually low in saturated fat, however some may contain trans fat. Check the Nutrition Facts panel on the label.
What makes these fats a good choice?
Generally speaking, fats rich in saturated and trans fats have been shown to be harmful to health, while research shows fats and oils rich in polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats are beneficial to health. Saturated fats and trans fats are known to raise blood cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart disease. Replacing saturated fat in the diet with polyunsaturated fats has been found to reduce LDL cholesterol levels and clinical trials show substituting polyunsaturated fats for saturated fat reduces risk for heart disease. In addition, consuming omega-3 polyunsaturated fats from fatty fish (such as salmon or trout) or vegetable oils (such as canola, walnut or flaxseed oil) may also help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Monounsaturated fats are the primary fat in olive, canola, and peanut oils, as well as nuts. Research indicates that monounsaturated fat may be useful in controlling blood sugar levels and have a mild cholesterol lowering effect when substituted for saturated fat.
To Make Heart Healthy Choices Read the Nutrition Facts Panel
Trans fat is naturally present in meat and dairy products. However, the main sources of trans fat in the U.S. diet are from partially hydrogenated (hardened) oils found in foods such as cookies, crackers, pastries and fried foods. These fats are added for taste, texture and to maintain freshness.
The main concern with trans fat is it raises the risk of coronary heart disease by increasing LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and lowering HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). Partially hydrogenated oils and tropical oils give margarine its firmness and spreadability. While tropical oil such as palm oil increases the saturated fat content of the product, only a very small amount is necessary to provide the right texture. The amount per serving varies among brands. It is important to consider the total saturated fat plus trans fat in a food item. Choose foods low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol to help reduce the risk of heart disease.
To maintain heart health, the best choice is to reduce both saturated and trans fat by replacing butter, lard, shortening and hard stick margarine with unsaturated fats such as soft, nonhydrogenated margarine and vegetable oils like olive, canola, sunflower and soybean oils. Read the ingredient list and look closely for these healthy oils. Enjoy a variety of foods that contain polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats while selecting those that are low in saturated fat and have no trans fat.
For further information, you may contact Adrianne Vidrine at the LSU AgCenter at (337) 788-8821 or you can also visit our website at http://www.lsuagcenter.com.