In honor of American Heart Month (February), a Long Beach Memorial dietitian has written an article about choosing cooking oils that are heart healthy. The type of fat we eat impacts our blood cholesterol levels and risk of developing heart disease.

Cooking with heart healthy fat is very important for heart health. The type of fat we eat impacts our blood cholesterol levels and risk of developing heart disease. Eating plant-based oils (i.e. unsaturated fats) lowers blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as reduces the risk of dying from heart disease. Eating fats that come from animal sources or tropical oils (i.e. saturated fats) causes increased blood cholesterol levels and increases the risk of developing heart disease. While some fats are more heart healthy than others, it is important to still control your portions.

Animal Fats and Tropical Fats (Saturated Fats) — Limit Use

Animal fats mainly come from meat and dairy products such as red meat, butter, cheese and cream. Tropical-sounding oils, like coconut, palm kernel and palm oils are high in saturated fat. Animal and tropical fats are typically solid at room temperature. It is best for heart health to limit their use.

Plant-Based Fats (Unsaturated Fats) — Enjoy Often

Heart healthy plant-based oils are made from either fruits or seeds and are typically liquid at room temperature. These oils have different characteristics depending on the source, which may impact flavor. Try replacing butter, coconut oil and other solid fats in cooking with plant-based oils. Here are a few examples:

Plant-Based Oil, Smoke Point*, Flavor profile, Try with

• Canola Oil, 400F, Neutral, mild, Homemade stove-top popcorn

• Dark Sesame Oil, 350F, Bold and rich, Use in coleslaw dressing

• Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 320F, Fruity, tangy, grassy and spicy, Drizzle on bread or soup

• Light Olive Oil, 465F, Mild — subtle, Mashed potatoes

• Peanut Oil, 450F, Nutty, Stir-frying vegetables

• Sunflower Oil, 440F, Neutral — light, Use in pie crust

• Vegetable Oil, 400F, Neutral — plain, Sauté salmon

* Smoke point is the temperature where the fat will start to burn or smoke. Choose an oil with a higher smoke point when cooking with high heat.

In addition to eating healthy, getting regular screenings for diabetes, maintaining your blood pressure and having your cholesterol levels measured is important in knowing your risk for heart disease. Exercise and managing stress also can help you live a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Knowing the symptoms and taking steps toward living a heart-healthy life can be vital to your health. Learn your risk factors by getting a $55 screening from the MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Long Beach Medical Center. Call (562) 933-2460 to schedule you appointment today.

Emily Burritt MS, RDN, is the director of clinical nutrition at Memorial Long Beach Medical Center.

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