Healthy Fats vs. Unhealthy Fats: The Truth About Saturated Fat and Heart Disease Risk

We’ve been told for years that eating saturated fat, the kind found in meats, cheeses, and other dairy foods, can cause heart disease. But instead of focusing on avoiding unhealthy fats, we’re being encouraged to eat healthier fats from nuts, seeds, seafood, and vegetable oils.

A study published last year suggests that eating too much saturated fat does not increase risk of heart disease. Instead, researchers say, it appears that unsaturated fats like those found in olive oil, nuts, and avocado do reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.

A recent study suggests that eating too much saturated fat does not increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. However, this same study did show that consuming trans fats increases your risk of heart disease.

But this research isn’t definitive proof that saturated fat is safe. Some experts say we shouldn’t worry too much about saturated fats yet.

Health experts like the American Heart Association say eating too much saturated fat increases your risk of cardiovascular diseases. They aren’t changing their recommendations.

What Foods Can Help With Weight Loss?
While scientists haven’t yet discovered the perfect diet, there are plenty of healthy foods to choose from. Here are three suggestions to consider:

Don’t view this study as a green light to load up on butter, steak, and cheese. Be smart about the saturated fats in your diet.

“Countless studies show that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat reduces cardiovascular disease,” says Alice Lichtenstein, professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University in Boston. “Polyunsaturated fats, often referred to as ‘omega 3’ and ‘omega 6,’ come from vegetable oils — soybean, corn, and canola — and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, and trout.” They are also found in many nuts, especially walnuts, pine nuts, pecans, and Brazil nuts.

The best way to prevent heart disease may be to eat more whole, unprocessed foods. So eat fish, beans, fruits, vegetables, brown rice, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and olive oils, and even some animal products like yogurt and high-quality meats and cheeses. The Mediterranean diet, which draws about 45% of calories from fats — including small amounts of saturated fat — is a good choice.

Remember: Diet isn’t the only reason why people get or don’t get heart disease. Other factors, like genetics and lifestyle habits, also contribute to this condition.