Benefits of Unsaturated Fats & Protein in a Diet

Healthy Heart
Are Unsaturated Dietary Fatty Acids Good For My Heart-_ft

Benefits of Unsaturated Fats & Protein in a Diet

Dietary fat is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. In addition to being important energy sources and stores, fats help the body absorb vitamins A, D,E and K and play a vital role in healthy cell function. The fat you eat is broken down during digestion into smaller units of fat called fatty acids. As part of a healthy diet, we should try to cut down on foods and drinks high in saturated fats (especially long chain saturated fats) and trans fats and replace some of them with unsaturated fats.

Unsaturated fats help improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, stabilize heart rhythms and play a number of other beneficial roles [2]. A randomized trial known as the Optimal Macronutrient Intake Trial for Heart Health (OmniHeart) showed that replacing a carbohydrate-rich diet with one rich in unsaturated fat, predominantly monounsaturated fats, lowers blood pressure, improves lipid levels and reduces cardiovascular risk.

Types Of Unsaturated Fatty Acids

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in brain function and help prevent clotting of

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blood, reduce the risk of stroke and lower triglyceride levels, a type of blood fat linked to heart disease.

Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be produced by the body; they have to be obtained from your diet. The American Heart Association recommends a diet in which fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines, tuna and blue mackerel fish are consumed at least twice a week. Vegetarian sources include grains, spirulina, brazil nuts, hempseed oil, mustard seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seed oil, wheat germ oil, canola oil (Rapeseed), green leafy vegetables, raw walnuts and walnut oil, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-6 fatty acids lower “bad” Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol when taken in moderation.

Seeds, nuts, grains and green leafy vegetables contain Omega-6 fatty acids. The best sources are wheatgerm, grapeseeds, pecans, pistachios, sesame oil, pumpkin seeds, safflower oil, sunflower oil and seeds, cottonseed oil, raw nuts and seeds.

The Right Proportion

Washington DC’s Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health suggests that eating Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids in the wrong proportions may actually negate the health benefits [4]. We should ideally be consuming about twice as much Omega-6 as Omega-3,  but it

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is likely that our current dietary patterns are Omega-6 heavy (as high as 15:1).

Monounsaturated (Omega-9) Fatty Acids

Omega-9 fatty acids are non essential fatty acids produced naturally by the body from essential Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-9 fatty acids promote heart health by supporting healthy, balanced cholesterol levels and improving immune function.

If you do not have enough Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, you must get Omega-9 fatty acids from your diet. Omega-9 fatty acids are found naturally in almonds, avocados, pecans, canola, cashews, hazelnuts, peanut oils, pecans, pumpkin and sesame seeds, pistachios, macadamia nuts, chia seed oil, olives and olive oil.

Unsaturated Dietary Fatty Acids and Healthy Heart

High Cholesterol

People who follow a Mediterranean-style diet tend to have higher HDL (good) cholesterol levels, which help promote heart health. Inuit Eskimos, who get high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids from eating fatty fish, also tend to have increased HDL cholesterol and decreased triglycerides (fats in the blood). Several studies show that fish oil supplements reduce triglyceride levels. Walnuts have been reported to lower total cholesterol and triglycerides in people with high cholesterol levels. Increasing the amount of

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Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet and reducing the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio, may help a group of cholesterol-lowering medications called statins work more effectively.

High Blood Pressure

Several clinical studies suggest that diets rich in unsaturated fatty acids lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. An analysis of 17 clinical studies using fish oil supplements found that taking 3 or more grams of fish oil daily may reduce blood pressure in people with untreated hypertension . Doses this high, however, should only be taken under the direction of a physician.

Heart Disease

Clinical evidence suggests that EPA and DHA, the two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil help reduce risk factors for heart disease, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Fish oil has been shown to lower levels of triglycerides (fats in the blood), and to lower the risk of death, heart attack, stroke and abnormal heart rhythms in people who have already had a heart attack. Eating at least 2 servings of fish per week can reduce the risk of stroke by as much as 50% .

Fish oil also appears to

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help prevent and treat atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) by slowing the development of plaque and blood clots, which can clog arteries. Large population studies suggest that getting omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, primarily from fish, helps protect against stroke caused by plaque build up and blood clots in the arteries that lead to the brain [4]. Studies also suggest that fatty acids may have antioxidant properties that improve endothelial function and may contribute to heart benefits [5.