Saturated fats and trans fats

One of the primary limitations your doctor might recommend is that you limit your intake of saturated fats and particularly trans fats. Many experts believe that the amount of fat you consume affects your cholesterol levels, and contributes to the buildup of plaque (fatty deposits) in the arteries. Plaque buildup, known as arteriosclerosis, narrows the arteries, restricting blood flow. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Plaque can also break off and be carried by the bloodstream to another area, potentially causing blockage or damage to the arteries.

  • Saturated fat is primarily animal fat, found in many meats and dairy products, but it is also found in a few plant products, like coconut oil, palm oil, and cocoa butter.
  • Trans fats are primarily found in snack foods and fried foods, particularly those made with “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” and vegetable shortening. Trans fats raise “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and lower “good” (HDL) cholesterol.

Butter vs. Margarine

Some experts suggest avoiding the saturated fat in butter by replacing it with margarine, specifically tub or liquid margarines, which are less likely than stick margarines to contain trans fats. However, margarines can contain sodium, while unsalted butter might not.

For example, a comparison of a 1-tablespoon serving of butter, an olive oil-based margarine spread and a liquid margarine (all of which were free of trans fats) demonstrated that the butter contained the most overall fat (11 grams, compared to 4 grams and 8 grams for the spread and liquid, respectively). The butter also had quite a bit more saturated fat (7 grams compared to 1 gram and 1.5 grams for the spread and liquid, respectively). However, the liquid margarine contained 110 milligrams of sodium, compared to 85 grams in the margarine spread and none in the unsalted butter.

Safer fats

Monounsaturated fats, such as olive, canola, peanut and sesame oils are believed to help control cholesterol, as are oils that are polyunsaturated, such as soybean, corn, sunflower, safflower, flaxseed, walnut, and fish oils.

Some doctors also suggest avoiding red meat altogether, since red meats tend to have more saturated fats than meats from chickens, turkeys and fish. The Diabetic Heart Lifestyle™ core meals and strategies emphasize the use of chicken, turkey and fish, but we include ideas for lean beef dishes as well. As with all other choices, we suggest talking to your doctor about what his or her recommendations are for protein in general, and red meat specifically.