MILWAUKEE -- The American Heart Association has become the first big health group to urge a specific limit on trans fats in the diet -- less than 1 percent of total calories -- in new guidelines released yesterday.
Also for the first time, the organization's dietary guidelines include lifestyle recommendations, including an emphasis on getting exercise and not smoking.
A panel of specialists in nutrition and heart disease reviewed more than 90 studies to update the dietary advice the association released in 2000. The guidelines are for healthy Americans ages 2 and older.
Rather than slavishly counting calories and grams of fat, people should try getting in the habit of cooking with healthier oils, and balancing calories consumed with calories burned through exercise, said Alice Lichtenstein, a Tufts University nutrition specialist who chaired the guidelines panel.
Trans fats, or trans fatty acids such as partially hydrogenated oils, are in many cookies, crackers, breads, cakes, french fries, and other fried foods. They contribute to heart disease risk by raising LDL, or the bad cholesterol.
Among the panel's other recommendations:
Limiting saturated fats to no more than 7 percent of daily calories, down from the 10 percent formerly recommended .
Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.
Eating fruits and vegetables that are deep in color, such as spinach, carrots, peaches, and berries.
Choosing whole-grain, high-fiber foods.