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Fats and Heart Health

Fats and Heart Health

Diabetes Information for You and Your Family

Smoked salmon

Fat provides energy for the body. Native people hunted and harvested food like buffalo, seal, fish, nuts, and seeds that provided "good" fats. As food choices changed over the years, so have the kinds of fats we eat.

Today, our food includes more of the fats that may cause heart disease. Heart disease is more common among people with diabetes.




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Types of Fat

Saturated fats raise cholesterol levels, which is a risk for heart disease. Saturated fats are found in animal products and tropical oils. These fats are solid at room temperature.

Unsaturated fats can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and provide nutrition. They come from plant oils and fatty fish. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature.

Good to know

  • Fats have more calories than carbohydrates and protein. For example:
    1 gram of fat = 9 calories.
    1 gram of carbohydrate or protein = 4 calories.
  • Eating large amounts of fat can lead to weight gain.

Heart-Healthy Fat Choices

Graphic showing a list of Eat Less and Replace with

Limit foods high in
saturated fat.

Use foods rich in
unsaturated fat in place of
foods high in saturated fat.

Nutrition Facts Label

Nutrition Facts Label

The Nutrition Facts label can help you learn about nutrients in foods and drinks.

Saturated Fat

Look for the amount of saturated fat in grams (g) and the percent (%) Daily Value of saturated fat in a serving.

In this example, the grams of saturated fat is 9 g, and the Daily Value is 45% in this serving. For this food, the amount of saturated fat is high.

Eat less than 20 g saturated fat daily, and remember:

Low saturated fat means

  • 1 g saturated fat or less per serving
  • 5% daily value or less per serving

High saturated fat means

  • 3.5 g saturated fat or more per serving
  • 20% daily value or more per serving

More Ideas for Heart-Healthy Eating

  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, and nuts.
  • Limit fatty red meat. Choose buffalo, moose, elk, deer, or caribou when you can.
  • Eat fish twice a week. Salmon, sardines, and tuna contain “good” fats.
  • Decrease how much salt you use. Check the Nutrition Facts label for the amount of sodium (salt) on packaged and fast foods. The recommended daily amount for sodium is 2300 mg.
  • Limit sugary foods and drinks.
  • Grill, stir fry, bake, boil, roast, or slow cook food
A basket of healthy food

What about eggs?

Eggs are rich in protein and nutrients. They are low in saturated fat with 1 gram per egg. If you eat eggs, limit them to 7-12 eggs per week.