Most Americans Don't Know About Heart Health

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Fewer than half of Americans know that the "better" fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) can help reduce their risk of heart disease, according to a recent survey by the American Heart Association.

"Heart disease remains the No. 1 killer of Americans. Consumers have heard a lot about the 'bad' fats lately and what not to eat. That's why it's important for people to know the 'better' fats and foods where they're found so they can lower their risk for heart disease," said Robert H. Eckel, M.D., past president of the American Heart Association, chair of its trans fat task force and professor of medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus of the University of Colorado Denver.

Facing the Fats with the Better Fats Sisters: Your Heart Helpers

The American Heart Association is introducing two new characters, the Better Fats Sisters -- Mon and Poly -- to help consumers learn more about the benefits of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and the foods where they are found. The Web site features the Better Fats Sisters alongside their Bad Fats Brothers, Sat and Trans. The Sisters help consumers find comprehensive information about fats so that they can eat healthier in restaurants and use the better fats when preparing meals at home.

The Better Fats Sisters remind everyone that all fats have the same number of calories: 9 per gram, compared to the 4 calories per gram found in proteins and carbohydrates. That means that even the "better fats" are good only in moderation.

Types of Fat and Heart Disease: Many Consumers Know the Bad, Fewer Know the Better

The survey shows that:

* Only 41 percent of Americans know that consuming monounsaturated fats decreases the risk of heart disease

* Only 44 percent of Americans know that consuming polyunsaturated fats decreases the risk of heart disease

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In comparison:

* 72 percent of Americans understand that consuming saturated fats increases the risk of heart disease

* 68 percent of Americans understand that consuming trans fats increases the risk of heart disease

Heart-Healthy Benefits of Better Fats

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can lower your LDL -- or "bad" -- cholesterol levels in your blood and lower your risk of heart disease.

Monounsaturated fats can be found in vegetable oils like olive and canola oils; and many nuts and seeds like almonds, peanuts and sesame seeds. Peanut butter and avocados are also good sources of monounsaturated fats.

Polyunsaturated fats can be found in oils like soybean and corn oils and in many nuts and seeds such as walnuts and sunflower seeds. Fatty fish like salmon and trout are also good sources of polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 and omega-6, essential fats that your body needs but can't produce.

The American Heart Association's Face the Fats Web site helps consumers make heart-healthy choices, including:

* Test Your Fats IQ -- An interactive quiz that tests consumers' knowledge of dietary fats and helps them learn more about fats on the spot.

* My Fats Translator -- An easy-to-use calculator that gives individuals their personalized daily calorie and fat consumption results. Its food scenarios give ideas for smarter ways to prepare summer favorites, each with three examples of "bad," "better" and "best" selections.

* Better Fats Recipes -- New heart-healthy recipes that make use of the better fats.

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