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Weight Loss & Diet Plans

Which Fats Really Are Good for Your Heart?

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What should we do now when it comes to watching how much fat we eat?

Opinions differ.

"Stay the course," Lichtenstein says. That means ''a moderate fat intake with relatively low saturated and trans fat, and the balance of unsaturated including polyunsaturated and monounsaturated [such as olive oil]."

''People don't eat in percents," she says. "Limit animal fat, such as meat and dairy fat, and partially hydrogenated oils [or trans fats, found in baked goods and fried foods]. Use liquid vegetable oil."

For those who count their fat grams: If you eat 2,000 calories a day, total fat intake should be 56 to 77 grams, according to the American Heart Association. Most of that should come from unsaturated fats.

Ramsden and others suggest picking products with lower amounts of omega-6. To do so,  choose canola or olive oil, Ramsden says, instead of safflower or sunflower.

"The concerning foods would be oil sources of safflower, corn, and sunflower, because they have almost no omega-3 and higher levels of omega-6," says Richard Bazinet, PhD, associate professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto.

He reports research support from the International Life Sciences Institute of North America and Bunge Ltd., a food company, for studies on omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and the brain.

Another expert says to focus on the big picture. "Rather than focusing on individual fats, focus on dietary patterns that we know are associated with better heart health," suggests Sheila Innis, PhD, professor of pediatrics at the University of British Columbia.

For instance, she says, follow a Mediterranean diet pattern, known to lower heart disease risk. The diet includes olive oil as well as plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It limits meats and sweets.

Innis serves on the Unilever scientific advisory board.

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