Even as a new medical student, I knew the advice was utter nonsense.
Starting in the 1950s, docs started advising folks to use margarine and skim milk instead of butter and whole milk. It was the beginning of America's delusion regarding low-fat diets.
And as I began my studies, my professors and attending physicians continued to push us to promote low-fat foods.
Earlier this month, we wrote a Retirement Millionaire Daily issue about the dangers of cutting fat out of your diet. The truth is, you need certain fats to stay healthy. These include mono- and polyunsaturated fats. We need them to keep our immune system strong, our brain working, and inflammation at safe levels.
We also talked about how diet programs like Weight Watchers limit great sources of healthy fats (like avocados) because they judge foods based on total fat. That's dangerous thinking.
We want to help you better understand the types of fats out there and which ones you should and shouldn't eat. So today we're continuing our discussion on fats, starting with the worst kind out there...
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Which fats should we avoid?
Trans fat is the worst kind of fat for your body. In fact, they send your immune system into overdrive, promoting inflammation and wreaking havoc on your body.
Researchers from Harvard recently found that people who ate "bad" fats – especially trans fats – actually lowered their life expectancy. Researchers followed about 125,000 people over the course of 30 years.
The analysis compared the intake by calories. Then the researchers looked at calorie intake from trans fat, saturated fat, and carbohydrates. When compared with calories from carbohydrates, every 2% increase in the amount of trans fat people ate corresponded with a 16% higher risk of early death.
However, they also found that the more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats people consumed, the lower their risk of early death. This is why eating the right kind of fats is so important.
You haven't mentioned saturated fats – what about those?
The science on saturated fats and health is complicated. In the study we mentioned earlier, people who ate more saturated fat saw a slight increase in early mortality. This is one of the reasons some folks believe that saturated fat causes heart disease.
However, a 2010 analysis of 21 cohort studies showed that saturated fat does not increase the risk of heart disease. What's more, in a randomized control trial of more than 48,000 women, cutting back on fat had no effect on lowering their risk of heart disease. The results, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that cutting fat to just 20% of daily calories did nothing to reduce heart disease or stroke.
But in Retirement Millionaire, haven't you told us to avoid saturated fats?
This depends on the food source. Saturated fats increase inflammation. Part of the problem concerning saturated fats is that some types are worse than others. Newer research suggests that it depends on how long the carbon chain is. It's one of the reasons coconut oil has caught on, because it's a medium-chain saturated fat. Look for more information from us on this in the future.
This points to our adage: Natural sources are always better than processed foods. This holds true for saturated fats. So don't cut out foods like avocados, whole milk, red meat, and cheese just because of the saturated fats.
So if I'm on Weight Watchers, can I have some avocado?
The problem for Weight Watchers and other diet programs is that avocados contain a lot of fat.
For example, 8 ounces of avocado has about 34 grams of total fat. Of those, 4.9 grams are saturated, 4.2 grams are polyunsaturated, and an incredible 23 grams are monounsaturated.
Compare that with an 8-ounce hamburger patty. That has 45 grams of total fat, but of those, saturated fat is 17 grams, polyunsaturated fats are 1 gram, and monounsaturated fats are 20 grams.
That means about 44% of the fat in a burger is monounsaturated. But in the avocado... 67% of the fat is monounsaturated.
If you're looking to have some healthy fats and you're on a diet program, you don't have to shy away from foods like avocado. Enjoy some on toast or as a dip.
The point is that we need natural fats to be healthy. We recommend these in order of importance: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and some saturated fats. Remember to avoid trans fat altogether. Eating a balanced diet of different healthy fats will help you live a longer, happier life.
What We're Reading...
- Harvard breaks down why trans fats are the worst.
- In case you missed it: our love for olive oil and its healthy fat.
- Something different: A child asks what the loudest sound on Earth is. The answer might surprise you.