Research shows that when saturated fats are replaced with other foods, there is a shift in heart disease risk.

Keeping saturated fats down

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health evaluated two studies – the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professional Follow-up Study. It included dates of more than 120,000 individuals without diabetes, heart disease and cancer at the beginning of the studies. 

These individuals were followed for three decades, and over that time 7,600 developed coronary heart disease. There were interesting results specific to replacing saturated fats with other foods and the development of coronary heart disease.

Saturated fats, which come from fatty red meats and dairy fats (whole milk, cream, butter and cheeses), have been linked to heart disease. In this study, when the saturated fats were replaced with other foods, there was a shift in heart disease risk.

  1. Saturated fats replaced with polyunsaturated fats such as liquid oils and nuts resulted in a 25 percent lower heart disease risk.
  2. Saturated fats replaced with monounsaturated fats such as olive and canola oils, as well as avocado, resulted in a 15 percent lower heart disease risk.
  3. Saturated fats replaced with processed carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, and plain snack crackers did not see a decrease in heart disease risk.

The Harvard heart researchers had some final nutrition take-aways from this study:

  1. Cut back on the saturated fats – select lean red meat if you choose to eat them. Poultry is a better choice, and fish is better still because there is no saturated fat.
  2. The healthy fats that seem to reduce heart disease risk include fatty fish, liquid oils, a variety of nuts and seeds and avocado – get them into your diet.
  3. Lower your intake of refined and processed carbohydrate foods, and replace with whole grains. Check the ingredient listing to be sure that the first ingredient is a whole grain such as whole wheat, whole rye, barley or whole oats.