CHOLESTEROL 7 Good Fats Another problem with animal foods is that they are high in saturated fat. A quick lesson in fats tells us that there are good fats and bad fats. Saturated fats are bad fats that can weaken the immune system and clog arteries. Trans fats are synthetically created liquid fats and are also considered very bad fats. Trans fats are so dangerous that in January 2006, all food manufacturers were required to list the amounts of both saturated and trans fats on the label. Prior to this, consumers did not know how much trans fats were in the foods they were eating. Some states have even banned trans fats from being used in restaurants. But there are some fats that are absolutely critical to our health and the efficient function of our heart. These fats are called essential fatty acids (EFAs). Two important EFAs are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). One of the reasons I tell my patients to eat more fish is because they contain EPA and DHA, which have been proven to be beneficial to heart function. These fish oils have been shown in clinical studies to enhance heart health and prevent heart disease. Olive and flax oils are also considered healthy oils. When cooking, avoid vegetable and flax oils because they are susceptible to damage from the heat and can become more toxic to your health. If you do not eat fish several times a week, you may want to consider supplementing your diet with a quality fish oil supplement. Don’t Diet Having a healthy diet will help you maintain a healthy body weight. The research has consistently and conclusively proven that being overweight increases your risk of high cholesterol and heart disease. An interesting fact about weight gain and heart disease involves your waistline. Research indicates that a waist size of less than 40 inches for men and less than 35 inches for women lowers cardiac risk. Focus on making your waist smaller than your hips. But avoid the temptation of jumping on the next diet bandwagon. Healthy, long-lasting weight loss requires dietary adjustments that you can live with for a lifetime. In addition to eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, I recommend the following: • Eat 20 to 30 grams of fiber each day. • Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of pure water each day (avoid unfiltered tap water). • Reduce or eliminate simple sugars. • Alcohol raises your good cholesterol, but strictly limit it to one to two servings per day maximum (for example, a glass of wine, bottle of beer, or shot of hard liquor). Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that eating large amounts of sugar more than triple the risk of having low HDL levels. The sweet stuff also raises harmful triglyceride levels. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your consumption to no more than 6 grams of sugar per day for women and 9 grams for men. To put this into perspective, a 12-ounce soda contains 8 to 10 grams and many sweetened breakfast cereals boast nearly 16 grams per serving.