Don't miss a beat in 2016: Your questions about fats and heart health answered

With heart disease as the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s time to listen to your heart and get the right kinds of fats into your daily diet. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consuming polyunsaturated fats, specifically omega-3 fatty acids, for heart health, but what are these “good fats” and how do you make them a part of your daily nutrition program?

Q: What are the main differences between “good fats” and “bad fats”?

A: We often hear that Americans eat too much fat, while people in other parts of the world aren’t eating enough. The truth is that, regardless of fat intake, very few people are eating the right fats. Fats to avoid are saturated and trans fats, which are solid at room temperature – like butter. In contrast, consuming polyunsaturated fatty acids – specifically omega-3s EPA and DHA found in fatty fish – are important for brain, eye and cardiovascular health.

Q: Doesn’t my body make all of the omega-3s needed to help maintain a strong heart?

A: Many experts have indicated that the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are essential nutrients due to the limited ability of our body to make enough of them and because of their beneficial health effects. That’s why we must get these nutrients from the foods we eat and supplements. The main dietary source of EPA and DHA is cold-water fish, such as salmon. Studies show that the more omega-3s you consume, the healthier your heart.

Q: What if I don’t like eating fish – are there other ways to get EPA and DHA into my diet?

A: The most common sources of EPA and DHA omega-3s are fatty fish and high-quality fish oil supplements as well as foods and beverages fortified with MEG-3® fish oil.

Q: How much EPA/DHA should I get in my diet?

A: If you’re not getting at least two servings a week of salmon, mackerel, herring or sardines, and you’re not loading foods fortified with EPA and DHA onto your plate, then make sure to take at least 220mg of DHA in supplement form. According to the American Heart Association, people with documented coronary heart disease (CHD) are advised to consume about one gram of EPA and DHA per day.

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