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American Heart Month: BLOOD PRESSURE, Saturated & Trans Fats

I think we have all heard about watching your sodium levels if you have high blood pressure, but did you know that foods high in saturated fats can also have a negative effect on blood pressure? (8)

Let's talk Fats: saturated fats, unsaturated fats (monounsaturated fats & polyunsaturated fats), & trans fats

Starting with Saturated & Unsaturated Fats, here are some definitions by the Mayo Clinic (1):

  • Saturated fat - This is solid at room temperature. It's found in butter, lard, full-fat milk and yogurt, full-fat cheese, and high-fat meat.

  • Unsaturated fat - This tends to be liquid at room temperature. It's found in vegetable oils, fish and nuts

    • Monounsaturated fat - This is found in olive, canola, peanut, sunflower and safflower oils, and in avocados, peanut butter and most nuts. It's also part of most animal fats such as fats from chicken, pork and beef (1), and almonds (7).

    • Polyunsaturated fat - This is found in sunflower, corn, soybean and cottonseed oils. It's also found in walnuts, pine nuts, flaxseed, and sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Omega-3s fall into this category and are found in fatty fish, such as salmon, herring and sardines.

Recommendations by Medline Plus (2):

  • “Reduce saturated fat to no more than 6% of daily calories and total fat to 27% of daily calories. Low-fat dairy products appear to be especially beneficial for lowering systolic blood pressure.”

  • When choosing fats, select monounsaturated oils, such as olive or canola oil.

  • Look for the words "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" on food labels. Do not eat foods with these ingredients. They are very high in saturated fats and trans fats.

  • Avoid or limit foods that are high in saturated fat (more than 20% of the total fat). Eating too much saturated fat is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. Food high in this type of fat include: egg yolks, hard cheeses, whole milk, cream, ice cream, butter, and fatty meats.

Web MD data (3):

The American Heart Association recommends (for a 2,000 calorie diet)

  • 120 calories or less should come from saturated fat

  • Men should not eat more than 30g of saturated fat per day

  • Women should not eat more than 20g of saturated fat per day

  • In moderation, Monounsaturated fats (olive oil, plant based oils like canola oil, avocados, olives, peanut butter, nuts, & seeds) can improve your heart health

Reduce or limit with these foods that are higher in saturated fats (3):

  • Red Meat

  • Full-Fat Dairy Products

  • Butter (Just one tablespoon of butter has 7 grams of saturated fat 23-35% of recommended amount on a 2K calorie diet)

  • Coconut Oil (90% saturated fat, with 1 tablespoon containing a whopping 12 grams)

  • Ice Cream

  • Baked Goods

I’m not losing you yet am I? We have one more to go:

Trans Fats: Partially Hydrogenated & Hydrogenated Fats

Both (4) and Medical News Today (5) have great articles talking about these topics (check out the reference links if you are interested in entire articles). This is what I took away:

  • Trans fats can be naturally occurring (produced in the gut of some animals & found in products like milk & meat), and artificial “trans fatty acids” (made by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid) (4)

  • Partially hydrogenated oils are the primary source for trans fats (4)

  • “In November 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) in human food(4)

  • In 2015, the FDA declared that trans fat is not “generally recognized as safe” and had to be phased out by 2018 (5)

  • According to the American Heart Association, Trans fat may still be present in some foods (5)

  • As manufacturers no longer use partially hydrogenated oil and trans fat in their processes, they have switched to using a combination of oils, including fully hydrogenated oil. (5)

Why do food manufacturers add hydrogenated oils to foods?

  • Cut costs

  • Preserve food

  • Enhance texture & taste (5)

What foods should I avoid?

  • Trans fats can be found in many foods – including fried foods like doughnuts, and baked goods including cakes, pie crusts, biscuits, frozen pizza, cookies, crackers, and stick margarines and other spreads (4)

  • Foods that contain higher levels of hydrogenated oils include: canned frostings, baked goods, margarine sticks, coffee creamers, and snack foods (5)

Helpful Tips:

  • Avoid processed foods(5)

  • Eat fresh veggies, fruits, nuts, lean proteins, and unsweetened dairy (5)

  • Use oil instead of butter, for example, sauté with olive oil instead of butter, and use canola oil when baking (6)

  • Eat fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, instead of meat at least twice a week (6)

  • Choose lean meat and skinless poultry. Trim visible fat from meat. Remove fat and skin from poultry (6)

  • Limit processed foods, which often contain saturated fat. Instead reach for whole fruits and vegetables when you're hungry (6)

Take Action:

  • Start with awareness: look at labels, recognize some of the terminology, and frequency that you use some of these foods

  • Eliminate or substitute: processed foods, red meat, full-fat dairy products, butter, coconut oil, ice cream, and baked goods

  • Consume in moderation:

    • Oils: canola, peanut, sunflower and safflower

    • Nuts/Seeds: peanuts, walnuts, pine nuts, flaxseed, and sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds

    • Fish: salmon, herring and sardines

    • Other Foods: Skinless Poultry, Olives, Avocados & Peanut Butter


1. Mayo Clinic. “Dietary fat: Know which to choose”. 1998-2023.

2. Medline Plus. “High blood pressure and diet”. 1997-2023.

3. Juber, Mahammad. “Foods High In Saturated Fat”. WebMD. Nov 29. 2022.

5. Fletcher, Jenna. “What is hydrogenated oil and is it safe?”. Medical News Today. Feb 25, 2021.

6. Mayo Clinic. “Dietary fat: Know which to choose”. 1998-2023.

7. The Nutrition Source. “Almonds”. Harvard School of Public Health. 2023.

8. Jones, Jerlyn. “Eating with High Blood Pressure: Foods and Drinks to Avoid”. Healthline. Dec 01, 2021.

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