oils

Oils and Heart Health

Does heart-healthy eating mean no oils, ever? You might be surprised to learn the answer. Oils contain fats, and your body needs fat for energy and to support the growth of cells. Not all fats are created equal, though, and they affect your body in different ways. It’s important to understand which oils have “good” fats and which have “bad” fats so you can make healthy choices in your diet.

The “Good” Fats in Oil

When eaten in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet, some fats can help lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. These “good” fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that are liquid, plant-based oils, including:

  • Canola oil
  • Olive oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Sesame oil

Avocados, peanut butter, and some nuts and seeds also have “good” fats.

The “Bad” Fats in Oil

Some oils can raise your cholesterol level, which can raise your risk for heart disease. These “bad” fats are saturated and trans fats, and can be found in foods like:

  • Fatty cuts of meat, poultry skin, and butter
  • Whole or 2% milk, cream, and cheese
  • Coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils
  • Sweets and desserts
  • Processed and packaged foods

Making healthy choices

A heart-healthy diet includes plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, and lean proteins. When choosing your oils, be sure to stick with the “good” fats in moderation, and to limit the “bad” fats as much as you can.

It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about what is best for you based on your family history and risk factors. Your doctor might suggest talking with a registered dietitian, an expert on diet and nutrition, to help you figure out how to make healthy choices and still enjoy your favorite foods and flavors.

To learn more about lowering your risk for heart disease, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484).