Love your heart

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope everyone has a wonderful day. What better time to spend a moment thinking about the most important person in your life ... you! Don’t forget about your heart! Unfortunately, with all of the diet information floating around, many are confusing and often contradicting. So, what should you be eating to help your heart?

Talk to most any dietitian and they’ll tell you that no one single food is either harmful or helpful. Broccoli is great for you, but if you ate five pounds of it at one time you’ll likely be regretting it. Moderation in all things is the mantra that all RDs preach, but let’s focus specifically on fats — small changes in your lifestyle can help decrease your risk of heart disease.

So, what are the types of fats and which ones are better than others? There are four types of fats in our diets: polyunsaturated, monounsaturated saturated, and trans fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the healthiest of this group. They are liquid at room temperature and usually come from plant sources. Some monounsaturated fats are found in olive, canola, and peanut oils, avocado, sesame seeds and peanut butter. The best polyunsaturated fats are safflower, corn, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed and sesame oil. Of these two, health professionals are urging their patients to consume more monounsaturated fats. Studies have shown that substituting these fats for other types can help reduce cholesterol levels, especially the bad LDL cholesterol.

Saturated fats are usually solid or firm at room temperature and most sources come from animals. These include fat in meat, butter, lard, cheese, whole milk, and cream. Coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter are saturated fats that come from plants. Trans fats are usually polyunsaturated fats that have been altered, usually by thickening or heat, and this changes their properties to be more like saturated fats. Shortening, stick margarine, cake mixes and commercially prepared baked goods are usually high in trans fats. Since 2006, the FDA has required food manufacturers to include these fats on their labels. Keep in mind that the labels list the amount per serving. Even if it says zero, it can up to half a gram of the fat in that product. Look for the ingredients “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” fat. If you see either of these in the first three ingredients, that food is higher in trans fats and can increase your risk of heart disease. So my best advice is to look for an alternate product!

Recipe for heart healthy butter


1 pound softened butter

1 cup canola, peanut or olive oil


Blend these two ingredients in a food processor until smooth. You haven’t reduced the calories, but you’ve created a wonderful spreadable butter that is suitable for cooking!

Mary Koch is a registered dietitian at Banner Churchill Community Hospital and the VA Lahontan Valley Outpatient Clinic. Send your nutrition questions to Mary at


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