You may have heard that consuming too much fat can increase your risk for heart disease, but new research suggests that it’s the type of fat, not the amount, that may be the more important factor in determining stroke risk.
The study found that eating more animal fat was linked to a higher risk of stroke, while consuming more plant-based fat was linked to a lower risk. Stroke is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.
“If everyone could make small modifications, such as reducing red and processed meat intake, the implication for public health will be huge,” said the study leader, Fenglei Wang, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. These findings which were presented Monday at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2021.
Here are some ways to reduce animal fats while increasing fats from vegetable sources:
- Try having avocado, nut butter or soaked chia seeds for breakfast instead of bacon, sausages or other processed meats.
- Consume more olives, nuts or nut butter (almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, etc.), seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, ground flax seeds), avocado, tahini/ sesame.
- Use olive oil instead of butter.
- Eat leaner cuts of beef and pork. Trim as much visible fat as possible before cooking.
- Avoid processed meats like bacon, sausage, ham and other cold cuts.
- Replace fatty meat with deep-water fish, beans, lentils and nuts. It is important to note that in studies looking at plant-based diets, people on plant-based diets ate foods such as leafy greens, colourful vegetables, whole grains, beans/ legumes and nuts. Keep in mind that “meat substitutes/ plant-based meats” are processed and contain additives such as sodium, sugar and preservatives.
The key is to eat the right type of fat. But in addition to our dietary choices, it is important to remember that smoking, diabetes, obesity as well as the level of exercise also play a role in heart health.