On this Valentines Day we’re focusing on our ol’ tickers as February is Heart Health Month. As doctors we get asked many questions regarding cardiovascular health and specifically what types of fats are beneficial as there is much confusion around this topic. Good fats are not only essential for a healthy diet but they’re also essential for your entire cardiovascular system (plus more!). Here is your cheat sheet to help you get the fats straight!

Saturated Fats: Chemically contain no double bonds and are typically solid at room temperature. eg: Butter, Lard, Cottonseed Oil, Trans fats. An exception to the “avoid” saturated fats rule is Coconut Oil which is a medium-chain fatty acid (which doesn’t collect in fat deposits to the same extent as long-chain fatty acids and can be used immediately by the liver for energy) high in lauric acid (powerful anti-viral and anti-bacterial) and makes an excellent cooking oil as it is heat stable (meaning it does not oxidize with heat) and therefore does not contribute to free-radicals in the body.

Unsaturated Fats: Chemically contain 1 or more double bond and are liquid at room temperature.

Omega-3: Reduces heart disease and stroke by reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels, increasing the strength of blood vessel walls, and preventing the build-up of fat deposits in the arteries. Anti-inflammatory, so eat lots of these! eg: Fatty fish high in Omega-3 are Sardines, Mackrel, Anchovies, Salmon, Herring. Also, Canola, Soybeans, Walnuts, and Flaxseeds.
Omega-6: Consumed in the diet from vegetable oils and meat. Essential for health in moderate amounts but in excess (especially meat, dairy and eggs), contributes to inflammation which may lead to heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis and depression. eg: Meat, Dairy, Eggs, Soybean oil, Corn oil, Safflower oil, Sunflower oil , Peanut oil, and Rice Bran oil.
Omega-9: Have a positive impact on cardiovascular health, nervous system health and also reduces cognitive decline associated with aging. eg: Olive Oil

Please keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list and for further help on ways to improve your cardiovascular health, consult a Naturopathic Doctor.