You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that you shouldn’t eat fries and fried chicken on a regular basis. They’re loaded with sodium and saturated fat — and a diet high in saturated fats and trans fats can raise blood cholesterol levels, putting you at risk for heart disease, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
Many foods that come from animals — like meat and fat-containing dairy products — contain saturated fats, while baked goods and fast foods pack in trans fats too. Because LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels in particular can be too high on a high-saturated-fat diet, the AHA recommends that saturated fats make up no more than 5 to 6 percent of your total calories. On a diet of 2,000 calories a day, that’s 11 to 13 grams of saturated fat at most.
It’s worth noting that the thinking has changed about what increases cholesterol in the body. Although it’s still important to limit the amount of cholesterol you get from foods, it’s the combination of fats and carbohydrates that may have the greatest effect on your blood cholesterol levels. Moderation and balance are key.
What’s for Breakfast?
Once banned from the breakfast table, eggs are now generally considered a relatively healthy choice — within limits. You can make eggs part of a heart-healthy diet, according to the AHA, as long as you don’t load up on cholesterol from other sources, like meat with visible fat or skin and full-fat dairy.
So, if you have an egg for breakfast, don’t have a cheeseburger for lunch. “Aim for balance,” says Kristi King, MPH, RDN, a clinical instructor at the Baylor College of Medicine and the senior dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. “If you are going to consume fried chicken, add a salad instead of fries. If you want fries, get the grilled chicken to go with it.”